US Hits Ghana With Visa Sanctions In Spat Over Deportees

GIN | 2/7/2019, 11:43 a.m.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and State Department say they will no longer issue visas for certain Ghanaians.
Information Minister K. Oppong Nkrumah Contributed

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and State Department say they will no longer issue visas for certain Ghanaians owing to a “lack of cooperation” by the West African nation—namely its refusal to accept 7,000 Ghanaian nationals that the U.S. wants to deport.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said Ghana has “denied or unreasonably delayed accepting their nationals ordered removed from the United States.”

But Foreign Affairs Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey hotly disputed the charge, calling the allegations “unfounded.”

“The sanctions imposed on Ghana are without any justification whatsoever,” the ministry said, adding that it had “always cooperated with the U.S. authorities in the processing and removal of Ghanaian citizens who have been cited for deportation.”

The spat blew up when the U.S. announced its intention to deport several hundred persons to Ghana for various infractions. Ghana refused to accept the group, saying they lacked documentation to prove Ghanaian citizenship. Plus, they said, “There has not been any confirmation by the U.S. authorities of a final court order for their removal in accordance with the U.S.’s own laws. It is therefore surprising that U.S. authorities would ignore the international protocols that need to be observed in matters of deportation and make allegations of lack of cooperation by Ghana.”

Two years ago, in another mass deportation to Ghana, human rights abuses were claimed by the deportees who said they were handcuffed and forced aboard the plane to Ghana, though the U.S. Embassy denied that any inhumane treatment took place.

U.S. Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan said that efforts to obtain passports for the Ghanaians at the embassy in Washington were unsuccessful after two years. Without passports, the U.S. has to arrange charter flights or, in some cases, release those under final orders of removal back into the U.S.

“The Government of Ghana has consistently not met in a timely way this internationally mandated standard of the U.N. Convention on International Civil Aviation,” the ambassador said.

Current visa holders, student visa applicants, Ghanaian government officials traveling for official duties and participants in official U.S. government exchange programs are not currently affected.

According to the latest published report of the immigration service, 305 Ghanaians were removed in 2017 and 235 in 2018. Among the top five “crimes” that led to the deportation in 2018 of all immigrants were traffic offenses (DUI) at 80,730 (includes charges and convictions), followed by dangerous drugs (76,585), other traffic offenses (76, 204), illegal entry, alien smuggling, false claim to U.N. citizenship (63,166) and assault (50,753).