The Upper West Regional Security Council (REGSEC) has expressed shock over “alarming” numbers of Burkinabe refugees settling down in Sissala zones.
Deputy Regional Minister Amidu Chinnia Issahaku who led the REGSEC members after visiting the camps on Wednesday called for national action to tackle the situation.
They went to Wuru, Kwapun, Banu and Pido along Ghana-Burkina Faso borders after holding a meeting in Waabout about how to deal with the influx of foreigners in the Region.
The National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) identified 253 households with 1,633 undocumented Burkinabe nationals, majority of who are women and children, camping in the farming communities.
Ghana’s disaster management organisation put the number of male refugees at 360 and 393 females with children making up 462 boys and 418 girls.
It identified 489 persons in Wuru, 467 in Kwapun, 561 in Banu and 111 persons in Pido.
“We have also heard information that more of them [the Burkinabe nationals] will be coming and this is worrying,” Mr Issahaku said.
“Government is worried about the movement of foreigners into the country since it had both current and future security threat”.
The REGSEC visit was prompted by months of Ghana News Agency investigative reports about unusual movements of foreigners along Ghana-Burkina Faso borders and unapproved routes aided by local landlords without permits.
“It came to the Regional Minister’s attention that we have some people from Burkina Faso who have migrated to settle in the Sissala East, specifically Banu Traditional Area, as a result, we have to hold an emergency REGSEC meeting to discuss the matter,” he said.
The visit was to help the security acquaint themselves with first-hand information of what might have triggered the exodus of nationals from the Francophone country in the Anglophone West African country.
“What we have established is that most of them said Ghana has fertile land for which they intend to farm to get food to eat, whilst others said where they are coming from, there have been some attacks on their communities,” Mr Chinnia said.
“We also met the Chiefs of the area and in fact, we think the numbers are alarming, over a thousand is huge, with many young able men with a lot of children”.
“If something is not done, their presence can pose as a threat to the country, we cannot compromise the security of our country,” he stressed.
Foreigners are required to follow due process before settling in the country, but due to weak border controls and too many unapproved routes many are reportedly found in the country without documentation.
Mr Chinnia said Government was working to identify categories of foreign nationals and their “real status” as to “whether they are truly farmers or running away from attacks”
He said REGSEC had filed a report that included wide-ranging recommendations concerning the worrying situation and expected an immediate action.
Mr Chinnia also said officials were interacting with the local citizens about their health status to be able to deal with any disease following the cross border movements.
He noted that the matter was an urgent one, which is of both national and international concerns, saying: “We respect the rights of ECOWAS and AU pacts that Ghana has signed onto”.
The Municipal Chief Executive for Sissala East Karim Nanyua said the presence of the migrants was likely put undue pressure on the existing limited social amenities in the hosting communities.
He said the Chiefs and locals have been asked to report any suspected person to the authorities for the necessary action.
The Upper West Regional Director of NADMO, Mr Jacob Dery, said his outfit was working to establish the exact help needed and added that “We realize they were putting up temporal structures for accommodation, so I am getting back to Wa [regional capital] to prepare a report to Accra.
“We will make a request to headquarters for mattresses, blankets, rubber buckets so they can cook and bath,” Mr Dery said and added that:
“NADMO in Upper West cannot provide tents anytime soon”.
He called for logistical support from donor agencies, saying: “We will definitely need donor support. If we get support from donor agencies, we will be very happy.
“Now, we have the ultimate responsibility to take care of them”.
He also described the over thousand people as overwhelming but added Ghana needed to keep a “close eye” on them.
The REGSEC included Police, Army, Customs Excise and Preventive Service of Ghana Revenue Authority, NADMO, Bureau of National Investigations, Red Cross, National Security and Immigration Service.