The Marine Department of the Tema Regional Police Command of the Ghana Police Service has recorded 6 stowaway cases in both the first and second quarters of 2020, as compared to 2019 which recorded 9 reported cases.
These illegal Ghanaian migrants, with ages ranging between 17 to 35 years, were arrested and repatrated from neighbouring countries such as Cote d’ Ivoire, Gambia and Senegal, and others were processed in court and fined between 150 to 200 penalty units respectively.
Chief Superintendent Antwi Ababio, Commander of the Marine, Port and Railway department, is however worried that unapproved travelling means some Ghanaians undertake attempts to reach preferred destinations such as Europe and America with the motive of seeking greener pastures.
“Most of these immigrants sneak into various vessels which are bound for Europe and America. And most of the time they do not get transit to their desire destinations as some vessels dock at a particular country they do not know. As a result, they are most times arrested and then handed over to the immigration officials for repatriation,” he told the B&FT in an interview.
He described the recorded figure as a drastic reduction, and attributed this success to some vigilance actions they have introduced in order to deter potential stowaways. They have made it a point that when any vessel due to sail, a diligent search is conducted to make sure that nobody is onboard a vessel illegally.
“In our jurisdiction we have made it a law that any vessel that leaves the port enclave should undergo this search before embarking on its journey. Ever since we introduced these measures, we have been able to bring stowaway cases to the barest minimum. Usually, getting to end of the year we would have recorded about 19 or 20 stowaway cases; but we are in the 8th month of the year 2020 and we have had 6. These are Ghanaians arrested in other countries and not in the Tema enclave,” he said.
In as much as efforts are being made to curb the situation in one way or another, non-crew members were also detected in the course of the search, and were charged for boarding a vessel without permission of the vessel master.
“The security operatives within the port enclave enter various compartments of the vessel to ensure people who are not duly assigned to be onboard and who are not crew of that particular vessel are taken out or not allowed to hide inside any compartment of the vessel to enable such person to stowaway.”
The Chief Superintendent indicated cases that placed a huge burden on the ship owners prior to huge repatriation, a source of worry to owners of the vessels.
He cautioned Ghanaians to stay away from embarking on such dangerous voyages by hiding in vessels to endanger their lives, but rather use appropriate means when they want to travel.
“Deciding to undertake stowaway is a dangerous venture. Looking at the places they hide in the vessels, those are places which are uninhabitable and people go to the extent of hiding in the engine compartment of the vessel. If anyone wants to travel, they should use appropriate means,” he said.
Meanwhile, the department is confronted with inadequate personnel and logistics, a major challenge to operational activities – necessitating an appeal to government for support.