Monday, September 28, 2009

A Visit to Buduburam refugee settlement

As one of the most stable nations on the continent, Ghana serves as refuge for thousands of people who have been forced to flee their home because of political and military turmoil in their countries.
On the first day in Ghana, a group of 36 students were bused to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ghana operations center. There the students were briefed about the refugee situation in Ghana by Lisa Quarshie and Nathalie Springuel, associate protection officers for the center.
The refugee situation in Ghana is dictated and regulated based on the international laws that govern all sovereign states, and national law, which includes the Ghana Refugee Law of 1992. These laws are in place into ensure that refugees human rights are respected while in Ghana. These rights include the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution, the right to not be forcibly returned to the country they are fleeing if doing so would endanger the refugee, and the right to an adequate standard of living.
The UNHCR plays an important role in helping countries, including Ghana, abide by these laws. The operation provides technical assistance, mobilizes funds, and examines camps to provide suggestions for improvements in living conditions.
In Ghana, there are four refugee camps in Ghana working with the UNHCR. Beduburam is the largest with roughly 12,000 inhabitants. This number has plummeted from over 70,000 refugees and continues to drop, mainly due to repatriation and resettlement.
After an interesting discussion with the UNHCR, during which time students were able to ask questions, the group piled back on the bus, and headed for Buduburam, which is near Accra and contains mostly Liberian refugees.
The students were given a tour of the camp, which provides the refugees with many essential facilities, including a police station, medical clinic, Harmony (a community center for children who are developmentally disabled), feeding centers and schools. The students were able to see all of this, along with the refugee homes, and were able to interact with some of the school children. Many of the students also brought crayons, paper, bookbags and books to donate to the school. Before the day was over, students were giving away items out of their boxed lunches to the children, who good naturedly fought for the sweets. The overall feeling on the bus as it headed back to the ship in Tema was one of quiet reflection.

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