The U.S. Embassy in Ghana issued the threats in a statement on Thursday explaining that the Ghana government failed to meet its ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation] obligation regarding the regular issuance of travel documents.
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.
The threats follow the U.S. ambassador to Ghana, Robert P. Jackson’s revelation last week 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.
Last year, the ambassador made similar remarks in which he said the same number of immigrants living illegally in the United States were being processed for deportation.
If the U.S. goes ahead with its threat, Ghanaian nationals, with limited exceptions, will not be issued all or specific types of visas.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy’s visa restriction threats were condemned by some Ghanaian experts including a professor at the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies, Dr. Michael Kpessa Whyte, who said on local media Citi TV that the U.S. government is trying to incite Ghanaians against the government.
“Basically what the US is trying to do is to get the ordinary Ghanaian who goes to the embassy to queue for hours to get a visa to get upset and then get access to radio or TV or social media and begin to lambaste the government, then the government is forced to cave in and sign those documents so those Ghanaians over there could be deported,” he said.
He advised the Ghana government to take advantage of the defense agreement to be signed with the United States to prevent the Ghanaians from being deported.
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 Ghana government is yet to make a statement on the U.S. Embassy’s claims.