By Ohenenana Kofinipa
A United Nations sponsored refugees plan has led to the acceptance by about 2,300 Togolese refugees, who fled violence from their country into Ghana, to integrate into their host communities in the Volta Region.
Under a two-year programme dubbed “Seed for Solution Project” which has been launched in Ho, the government of Togo is to provide them with national passports, while Ghanaian authorities will provide them with resident permits.
The programme is the outcome of discussions between the Ghana Refugee Board and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as systematic consultation with the refugees after Ghana’s proposal for such a move was accepted by the UNHCR head office in Geneva from among 18 countries.
The refugees have options to choose either voluntary repatriation or local integration after which their refugee status will be terminated by the end of 2015.
The project allows refugees to access national services, including National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) of Ghana, achieve self-reliance and obtain an alternative legal status by 2015.
Those who opted for voluntary repatriation will receive packages, including pre-departure assistance, transportation and $ 100 and $150 per a child and adult respectively.
The headquarters of UNHCR will provide funds to support the government to implement the local integration under the ‘Seeds for Solution Project’ for two years.
Reports quote Chairman of the Ghana Refugee Board, Mr Ken Dzirasah, as saying that by 2015, the Togolese refugee status would cease in Ghana but that did not confirm them as citizens of Ghana and, therefore, it would be illegal for them to engage in political activities or vote during elections.
He called for unity among the refugees and advised them to be law abiding.
Mr Dzirasah urged refugees who were undecided on integration to consider the options or else they would lose the opportunities under the project after the UNHCR had granted the integration status to other refugees.
Ms Doris Wiafe-Annor, UNHCR Representative in Ghana, said UNHCR would support the government in terms of rehabilitation of schools, provision of agricultural tools and start up kits to skilled refugees, as well as sink boreholes in some communities.
Micro-credit support will be extended to over 100 refugee households who are engaged in small businesses to have the capacity to build livelihoods, as well as 400 refugees and the host communities who are also into farming will be supported.
The Volta Regional Minister, Ms Helen Adjoa Ntoso, thanked the chiefs and people in host communities for their hospitality towards the Togolese refugees over the years, but appealed to them to continue to provide the needed environment to the refugees who had opted to stay.