Parliament: Foreign Affairs Committee summons Shirley Ayorkor Botchway over US visa restrictions

By Wendy Amarteifio
Parliament: Foreign Affairs Committee summons Shirley Ayorkor Botchway over US visa restrictions

The Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament have summoned Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Foreign Affairs Minister, over the United States visa restrictions on Ghana by the Department of Homeland Security.

A member of the Committee, Clement Apaak said leaders on both sides of the House have taken the matter seriously thus the decision to invite the minister.

According to Mr Apaak, they will be having a meeting next week over the issue.

“Early next week, we will have a meeting with the minister and we will let the public know the next course of action. But we expect that government will be up and doing for us to know how to resolve this matter.”

His comment follows an announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of the United States that it is implementing visa sanctions on Ghana.

In a release dated January 31, 2019, it explained that the sanctions are as a result of Ghana’s failure to accept its nationals that have been removed from the U.S.

“Ghana has failed to live up to its obligations under international law to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States,” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is quoted in the release.

The Ghana Ambassador to the US, Dr Baffour Adjei-Bawuah in May 2018, was caught in a cat and mouse game with the American authorities to sign for the deportation of over 7000 arrested persons from the US.

He said: “it leaves me with difficulty to sanction the deportation of my citizen and I have been trying hard to explain this to the authorities.”

He argued that the DHS has every documentation and information that allows the person to be brought into the US so they do not need confirmation from the Ghanaian Embassy.

“All that we were talking about was for certain fairness to be applied and the Embassy not necessarily pressured to agree to see some people to be deported. This is where we had a difference of opinion with the US authorities,” he said.

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In September, however, the issue resurfaced with Dr Adjei-Bawuah saying the two countries have reached a diplomatic understanding with authorities over the deportation. This was, however, disputed by the Foreign Affairs Minister.

Unhappy with how the issue has been handled, Mr Apaak said Ghana should not have waited for the issue to get out of hand as there are certain things that could have been done to forestall the current action of the Americans.

He said, “Whether we like it or not, they have made their decision and we have to respond appropriately that is why we have to meet with the minister so we can decide collectively the course of action to take.” 

Mr Apaak said regarding calls for retaliation, it is important to get a briefing from the minister so as to take a decision that will favour the country and its citizens.

According to him, the Foreign Affairs Committee sings from the same hymn sheet when it comes to protecting the interest of Ghanaians and they will do all they can with all the available options.

He accused the government and the ministry of failing to furnish the Foreign Affairs Committee with information after it raised concerns when the issue surfaced.

Mr Apaak said, “Government, through the ministry and Ambassador to the US very giving very confusing answers and contradicting each other at some point. When the Ambassador briefed the media at the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting in the US indicating that an agreement has been reached, the minister later contradicted him.

He believes the US authorities took the confusing communication to mean Ghana is not serious in dealing with the issue which left it no option but to come out with such a hardline decision.

Mr Apaak said he anticipates the US authorities escalating it if Ghana does not quickly resolve the issue.

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