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WEEKEND PLUS: COVID-19: Bring stranded Ghanaians home – Minority to gov’t

The Minority in Parliament has urged the Akufo-Addo government to bring home Ghanaians stranded in other countries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a press conference on Thursday, 7 May 2020, Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu said: “Many other countries are evacuating their citizens”, indicating: “India has done it, South Africa has done it, the UK has done it”.

“It is our considered view that just as our government is able to open our airports, despite the closures, for foreign nationals to be evacuated, the government should do same by providing a narrow opportunity under strict evacuation protocols of screening, testing and quarantining when necessary, in order to secure the safety of Ghanaians abroad.”

The Minority’s call, a caucus, comes just days after the Ranking Member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, entreated the government to allow flights to bring home all stranded Ghanaians abroad just as flights have been allowed into Ghana to fly home other nationals despite the closure of the country’s borders.

The country’s air, land and sea borders were closed by the government to prevent the importation of the novel coronavirus.

They have remained shut for close to two months, leaving Ghanaians abroad stranded.

In a Facebook post, Mr Ablakwa said Ghanaians abroad can be brought home “under strict WHO protocols and, therefore, would not lead to Ghanaians being infected as some fear mongers are peddling.”

“Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of those stranded out there. It may be others today but it can be you tomorrow. We opened the airports for other nationals, we should do same under a narrow special dispensation for our fellow citizens,” he stated, adding: “Our government owes a sacred duty of care to all citizens be they home or abroad, particularly, in times of crisis which is the principle other governments have, so far, demonstrated.”

Despite the border remaining closed, the US and South Africa have been able to send their nationals home from Ghana.

Below is Mr Ablakwa’s full post:

Since closing all entry points including our airports, our Government has been able to open our airports on a limited basis when Governments of other countries have requested; this has allowed flights to come into Ghana and take out other nationals who wish to return home.

We have done that for many countries without these exercises posing any risk to Ghanaians.

If that can be done for other nationals, we should be able to do same for our own compatriots. Sometimes we give the impression that we love foreigners more than our own people.

I disagree with those who also say a narrow dispensation for stranded Ghanaians to return home will be chaotic and may present a logistical nightmare. Why do we keep diplomatic missions abroad? Simply ask all such Ghanaians to register with our missions abroad which can be done virtually and then our well trained foreign service staff will coordinate their return just as embassies of other jurisdictions including those in Ghana have competently executed.

On the matter of cost, most stranded Ghanaians who have reached out are in possession of return tickets with their airline managers willing to negotiate with Government on return modalities.

Most of these Ghanaians have also indicated their willingness to pay for any extra cost and the cost of quarantine if the Akufo-Addo administration gives them the opportunity.

As I have indicated earlier, these movements are carried out under strict WHO protocols and therefore would not lead to Ghanaians being infected as some fear mongers are peddling.

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of those stranded out there. It may be others today but it can be you tomorrow. We opened the airports for other nationals, we should do same under a narrow special dispensation for our fellow citizens.

Our Government owes a sacred duty of care to all citizens be they home or abroad, particularly, in times of crisis which is the principle other Governments have so far demonstrated.

May I add that this is the reason I remain exceedingly proud of the position I took on the evacuation of our students in Wuhan despite the vilification and the blatant lies unscrupulous propagandists have put out to the effect that evacuations were responsible for the coronavirus outbreak in other countries.

I humbly appeal that we all learn to show solidarity with each other. What happens to one citizen affects us all. I believe some of those stranded today and calling for help couldn’t be bothered when similar calls were made for our students in Wuhan. May these lessons guide us into a brighter and greater future for our motherland.

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