At least 40 Ghanaian citizens have arrived back in the country’s capital Accra last Monday after deportation from the United States for various offences ranging from drug trafficking, assault, vehicle theft, burglary, fraud, domestic violence and immigration-related issues.
The country’s immigration service confirmed the deportation in a statement saying 38 of the deportees arrived on Travel Certificate issued by the Ghana Mission in Washington, D.C., and the other two travelled on Ghanaian passports.
The issuance of Travel Certificates to deportees by the Ghana Mission comes six months after the U.S. government imposed visa restrictions on Ghana for failure to issue the travel documents for Ghanaians under deportation orders to depart the U.S. on commercial flights.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement on February 1, 2019, that the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ordered the U.S. Embassy in Ghana to discontinue issuing all non-immigrant visas (NIV) to two groups of Ghanaian applicants starting from February 4, 2019.
The affected applicants are domestic employees of Ghanaian diplomats posted in the United States. There is also a limitation placed on “the validity period and the number of entries on new tourist and business visas for all Ghanaian executive and legislative branch employees, their spouses, and their children under 21 to one-month, single-entry visas”.
The DHS also added that: “Without an appropriate response from Ghana, the scope of these sanctions may be expanded to a wider population.”
The Government of Ghana did not issue any statement when an earlier threat was issued in June 2018 by the U.S. Embassy in Ghana and when the visa restrictions were imposed in 2019.
Since December 2016, “the U.S. government has repeatedly engaged the Government of Ghana in both Washington, D.C., and Accra and has urged the government to abide by its international obligations and issue the necessary travel documents so that Ghanaians under deportation orders may depart the United States on commercial flights.
“If Ghana fails to comply with international obligations regarding the issuance of travel documents, the United States may be forced to begin implementing visa restrictions on Ghana, in accordance with U.S. law,” said the Public Affairs department of the U.S Embassy in June 2018.
The U.S. Ambassador to Ghana at the time, Robert P. Jackson had earlier revealed that over 7,000 Ghanaians were in the process of being deported from the U.S. for various immigration offences.
“First, we are talking about 7,000, not 60,000 Ghanaians who are in various stages of being deported from the United States and on that issue just as we have a responsibility to patrol our borders, countries around the world have a responsibility to issue travel documents to their citizens so that they can return to those countries,” he said at an event in Accra.
The Ghana government did not issue any statement with regard to the U.S. position, but a cross-section of Ghanaians used the media to condemn the threats and called on the government not to budge.
Ambassador Jackson responded to the comments saying: “The statement that the embassy issued saying that Ghana could face visa sanctions is not a threat, and I don’t want it to be a threat. What I want is for the embassy of Ghana in the United States to interview one person facing deportation and issue one travel document every business day. If the Embassy does that, we will solve this problem.
“Just as Ghana deports people, the United States also have the right to deport people. I’ve been talking with the government of Ghana about this for over two years … I am acting on instructions. This is not something I am initiating. We will enforce our immigration laws,” he added.
The 40 Ghanaians who were deported are aged between 21 and 70 years and they are made up of 38 males and two females, says the Ghana Immigration Service. They arrived on board a chartered flight, Omni Air International Boeing 777 – OAE 328.
They were allowed into the country after going through disembarkation formalities including screening by security agencies to authenticate their nationalities.