09 September 2020
As of mid-2020, Ghana was hosting more than 12,000 registered refugees and some 400,000 migrants. The online African peace research platform Kujenga Amani reported that Ghana was “slow to recognise the scale of risks posed by restrictive measures such as a partial lockdown, stay at home and border closure, to vulnerable groups in society.” As a result, Ghana’s migrant and refugee communities, already adversely affected by socio-economic exclusion, have faced even harsher challenges during the Covid-19 crisis.
Although the Global Detention Project has not identified dedicated immigration detention sites in the country, Ghana has emphasised immigration control measures in its policy statements. After the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government threatened to deport non-nationals who test positive for the disease. However, as of writing, the government does not appear to have followed through on these threats. According to media reports, for Guinean and Burkina Faso nationals, repatriation was halted due to the lack of cooperation from their respective governments. Nevertheless, the threats of deportation have caused panic among refugees and migrants, some of whom have reportedly fled isolation centres or refused offers for medical treatment.
On 17 March, prison visits were limited to one per prisoner, once per week, and two-week isolation was implemented for every new prisoner. In 2019, the country’s 44 prisons had on average a 155 percent occupancy rate. This overcrowding was denounced on 26 June by the POS foundation, which urged the government to release prisoners who had committed minor non-violent offences. The President of Ghana had pardoned 1,602 prisoners by 2 July, as a measure to reduce the overcrowding in prisons. However, several prisoners have reportedly tested positive to Covid-19 in Accra, Tamale, and Kumasi prisons. In Tamale prison, prisoners and prison staff were being randomly tested back in May, but there does not seem to be any national plan to implement sanitary measures in prisons.
- Ghana Prison Service, “Covid-19 Response in Prisons,” 17 March, https://icpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Ghana_Ghana_Prison_Service.pdf
- Ghana Times, “Ghana Prisons Overcrowding Hits 15,467 as Against 9,945 Standard Capacity,” Ghana Web, 11 September 2019, https://bit.ly/2FeiNWU
- Daily Heritage, “Review Amnesty Criteria to Decongest Prisons - POS Foundation To President,” Ghana Web, 3 July 2020, https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Review-Amnesty-criteria-to-decongest-prisons-POS-foundation-to-President-997366
- A. Abu-bashal, “Ghana pardons 794 prisoners to curb spread of COVID-19,” Anadolu Agency, 3 July 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/ghana-pardons-794-prisoners-to-curb-spread-of-covid-19/1898022
- Prison Insider, “Ghana: Identified Cases,” 27 May 2020, https://www.prison-insider.com/en/articles/afrique-coronavirus-la-fievre-des-prisons#ghana-5e81feb658533
- A. Coffie, “Refugees and Migrants - A Blind Spot in Ghana’s Covid-19 Response?” Kujenga Amani, 2 July 2020, https://kujenga-amani.ssrc.org/2020/07/02/refugees-and-migrants-a-blind-spot-in-ghanas-covid-19-response/