Contingency plan for Burkinabe refugees in the offing – UNHCR ­­

The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, the Ministry for the Interior and its agency, the Ghana Refugee Board (GRB), and other stakeholders are putting together a contingency plan to respond and support asylum seekers trooping to Ghana from neighbouring Burkina Faso.
Details of the response plan will emerge after a stakeholders’ forum to be organised by the UNHCR and its partners in Accra next week.

However, the UN Refugee Agency believes a community-based approach could be adopted to ensure that the asylum seekers could be integrated easily into their host communities.

The Country Representative of UNHCR, Esther Kiragu, made this known to journalists last Wednesday, after visiting two temporary community hosting camps occupied by some Burkinabes in Sapeliga in the Bawku West District in the Upper East Region.

“The forum has the objective to map out a strategy needed to deal with the evolving security situation in Burkina Faso so as to deal with it appropriately,” Ms Kiragu said.


Ms Kiragu was accompanied by the Executive Secretary of the board, Tetteh Padi, and some personnel of the Ghana Immigration Service.

The team also visited the temporary camps located at Kare and Burgila to interact with the asylum seekers.

More than 4,000 Burkinabes are currently living in Soogo, Widnaba and Akansooga electoral areas in the same district after fleeing from Jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso.

Caught unprepared

Ms Kiragu stated that the plan had become necessary so that the UNHCR and other institutions would not be caught unprepared when the numbers of the asylum seekers increased.

The UN Refugee Agency Country Representative noted that the refugees urgently needed to live comfortably in their new country of refuge, since the situation in Burkina Faso had moved from bad to worse.

“Obviously, we will work with the various district assemblies and host communities towards providing the needed support to the refugees to live normal lives” Ms Kiragu stated.

She stressed that “sadly, the asylum seekers have no proper shelter, privacy, water and sanitation facilities; no food and work to earn something to support their lives”.

Community-based approach

Under the community- based approach, Ms Kiragu said: “We will support the schools in the communities to absorb the children so that they can acquire basic education”.

By doing so, the UNHCR country representative stated that providing the children with basic education in the host communities would enable them to grow to become responsible adults.

She, however, admitted that language would be a barrier but UNHCR and other stakeholders would implement the same measures that were implemented when the Ivorian and Liberian refugee came to Ghana.

Ms Kiragu lauded the host communities for accepting to live with the asylum seekers and providing land for them to construct makeshift structures to live in.

“This gives further credence to the Ghanaian hospitality that is internationally acclaimed,” she said.

Critical needs

For his part, Mr Padi said there were critical needs the refugees required such as food, shelter, water and others that had to be provided immediately.

“So, we need to provide assistance to them in these areas to bring relief to them”, stressing “we are working with our partners to obtain the necessary resources to make sure that the refugees are comfortable”.

Mr Padi said the board recognised the urgency of the support needed by the refugees and would make sure they received the required assistance as soon as possible.

“Although we cannot ascertain the numbers, we certainly see some people here who need support and it is important we organise ourselves to come to their aid,” the Executive Secretary of the Refugee Board said.

Traditional leader

The Chief of Sapeliga, Naba Emmanuel Ayagiba Abangiba, said although they initially entertained some fears when the asylum seekers arrived in the community, they were now comfortable living with them.

“We are one people since we have intermarried and we are ready to live together with them if they decide not to return to Burkina Faso,” the chief said.

The Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu, during a courtesy call on him, noted that they were ready to accept the asylum seekers if the needed protocols were followed.


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