Our hands are tied over GITMO 2 – Foreign Affairs Minister

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, has stated that the two  former Guantanamo Bay detainees cannot be repatriated back because they were granted refugee status under the Mahama government in July 2016.

“Our hands are tied because they have been granted a legal status to stay but we are still going ahead to explore options, when you have people who have been surveilled for two years, you just don’t cut them off, definitely you have to continue the surveillance” she told Parliament on Wednesday.

According to her, the agreement signed between the government of Ghana and United States of America indicated that, while the US has no obligation to the detainees after the initial two-year agreement, Ghana has the responsibility to integrate the two into the Ghanaian society.

The two detainees of Yemeni nationality, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, who were in detention for 14 years after being linked with terrorist group Al-Qaeda, were brought to Ghana in January 2016, for a period of two years.

“The government at the time granted the two detainees refugee status. This followed a request by National Security to the then-Chairman of the Ghana Refugee Board. They were issued a decision letter dated 21st July 2016, recognizing their status as refugees,” she said.

The Minster explained further that “the implication is that, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951, and the 1967 protocol on the Status of refugees as well as the provisions of the Refugee Law (1992) PNDC Law 305 (d) of Ghana, the two have attained the status of refugees in our country.”

She noted that the essential component of the refugee status in Ghana “is protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution.”

“Accordingly, government is constrained to explore any further options at this time, and will await an in-depth examination of the matter by the appropriate agencies,” Madam Ayorkor Botchway added.

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