• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

African Union team finds Togolese refugees well integrated in Ghana

News Stories, 26 May 2005

© UNHCR/N.Jehu-Hoyah
Togolese refugees preparing food with their Ghanaian hosts in the Aflao region.

ACCRA, Ghana, May 26 (UNHCR) A high-level African Union mission to assess the situation of Togolese refugees in Ghana has found the recent arrivals living harmoniously among the local community in the border area.

The three-person delegation ended their three-day mission to Ghana yesterday after meeting officials from the Ghanaian government, UNHCR and other agencies. The AU delegates included Ambassador Al-Maamoun Baba Lamine Keita of Mali, Ambassador M.W. Mangachi of Tanzania, and Macrine Mayanja of the AU Commission's Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees and Displaced Persons Division.

The team showed the AU's solidarity with Ghana's government and refugee-hosting communities by presenting a cheque for US$30,000 to the Ministry of Interior to assist with the refugee programme.

Accompanied by UNHCR, the delegates went on a field mission to Aflao, a Ghanaian border town near Togolese capital Lomé, to meet the refugees and host communities. They were warmly welcomed by the Paramount Chief of Aflao traditional area, Togbui Amenya Fiti V, whose jurisdiction transcends into Togo, including parts of western Lomé.

The Paramount Chief appealed to the international community, through the AU, to put measures in place in Togo to ensure sustainable peace.

"We are appealing to the big men and organisations to help solve the problem in Togo," said Togbui Amenya Fiti V. "When there is peace in Togo, there is peace in Aflao. Aflao is a melting pot for regional trade in West Africa. We have all ethnic groups here. The group outside the palace today is a representation of the 1,600 Malians in Aflao. They are here to welcome His Excellency, Ambassador Keita."

The delegates stressed the importance of efforts being made by the AU and ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) to find a political solution so that the Togolese refugees could return home as soon as possible.

In the meantime, their hosts in Ghana are trying their best to make the refugees feel at home. "We speak the same language. They are our neighbours so it is a matter of course that we have to accommodate them. They would have done the same," said Togbui Amenya Fiti V.

At a press conference in Accra on Wednesday, the AU delegation expressed amazement at the unique nature of this particular hosting situation.

"The refugees are well integrated into the community and the few that we saw in a school building were in transit, waiting to join host families," observed Tanzanian Ambassador Mangachi. "This is very much in the spirit of the OAU Refugee Convention of 1969. This situation, where the local community is supported to host the refugees, is very unique and particularly humane."

UNHCR Representative in Ghana Thomas Albrecht agreed: "It is easier to provide assistance when the refugee population is in camps, but ultimately worse for them. Camps are never the ideal, they are a last resort. The ideal is to provide refugees with an opportunity to have as close to a normal life as possible. Being integrated in the local communities, with all its challenges, is the best option."

The Togolese refugees have received emergency assistance food and relief items from the Ghanaian government, UNHCR and partners like the World Food Programme. Recognising the strain of hosting more than 15,000 refugees, the agencies are working to support and strengthen existing services in the Aflao region, especially in the areas of health, sanitation and potable water.

By Needa Jehu-Hoyah




UNHCR country pages

Benin: Influx from Togo

More than 30,000 people fled Togo to seek security in neighbouring countries when violence erupted with the announcement of election results on April 26, 2005. The outflow slowed in the ensuing weeks, but Benin and Ghana continue to register daily arrivals.

More than half of the refugees arrived in Benin, many through the main crossing point at Hilakondji. The majority stayed with friends and host families, while several thousand were moved from a church compound near Hilakondji to Come and Lokossa camps. More land is being cleared at Lokossa to accommodate more of the new arrivals. UNHCR and its partners are providing food and relief items and building sanitation facilities.

In Ghana, most of the Togolese are living with relatives and friends, but these host families are now running low on resources. Aid agencies are working to meet the increasing need to distribute food and relief items like mats, jerry cans, mosquito nets and soap.

Benin: Influx from Togo

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

This gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

After decades of hospitality after World War II, as the global political climate changed and the number of people cared for by UNHCR swelled from around one million in 1951, to more than 27 million people in the mid-1990s, the welcome mat for refugees was largely withdrawn.

Voluntary repatriation has become both the preferred and only practical solution for today's refugees. In fact, the great majority of them choose to return to their former homes, though for those who cannot do so for various reasons, resettlement in countries like the United States and Australia, and local integration within regions where they first sought asylum, remain important options.

This gallery sees Rwandans returning home after the 1994 genocide; returnees to Kosovo receiving reintegration assistance; Guatemalans obtaining land titles in Mexico; and Afghans flocking home in 2003 after decades in exile.

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

A Place to Call Home (Part 1): 1953 - 1995

Based on the 2004 World Refugee Day theme, "A place to call home: Rebuilding lives in safety and dignity", this two-part gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

In more than a half century of humanitarian work, the UN refugee agency has helped more than 50 million uprooted people across the globe to successfully restart their lives.

Following the end of World War II and in the prevailing climate of the Cold War, many refugees, including those fleeing Soviet-dominated countries or the aftermath of the conflict in Indo China, were welcomed by the countries to which they initially fled or resettled in states even further afield.

In Part 1 of the gallery, a family restarts its life in New Zealand in the 1950s after years in a German camp; Vietnamese children make their first snowman in Sweden; while two sisters rebuild their home after returning to post-war Mozambique in the early 1990s.

A Place to Call Home (Part 1): 1953 - 1995