UN refugee agency urges Ghana to cease forced return of Burkina Faso refugees

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday said it was concerned about reports that hundreds of Burkinabe refugees, including women and children, fleeing to Ghana were being deported.

For the past few years, Burkina Faso has been experiencing violence and terrorist attacks from extremist groups in many cities. According to UNHCR, more than 17,500 Burkina Faso nationals have fled to neighboring countries, including Niger, Mali, Benin, and Côte d’Ivoire, since January 2021 as a result of the ongoing conflict.

Ghana has been accused of having forcefully deported more than 500 Burkina Faso nationals seeking protection along the border since Tuesday. A video on Twitter showing expelled women and children sitting in a parking lot near the border has been widely circulated.

UNHCR called on Ghana to stop the deportations, saying that they amount to a violation of the non-refoulement principle. According to UNHCR,

Non-refoulement is a fundamental principle enshrined in international law, which prohibits the return of an asylum seeker or a refugee to countries where his life or freedom would be threatened.

UNHCR also urged the Ghanaian government to “guarantee access to the territory and asylum to nationals of Burkina Faso seeking international protection.”

The Ghanian Ministry of National Security has denied the allegations. Contrary to the report, it claims, the Ghana Refugee Board has collaborated with the UNHCR to set up a reception centre with a capacity of 4,000 individuals in the Upper East Region. Currently, 530 displaced Burkinabe citizens are accommodated there.