The Upper West Regional Command of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), is appealing to residents particularly those in the border communities to provide information critical for the apprehension of persons who enter or exit the country through unapproved routes.
This call comes after 189 Burkina Faso nationals and two Ghanaians were arrested in 25 separate incidents for trying to enter and exit the country through the many unapproved routes in the Upper West Region following the President’s directive on border closure.
The Regional PRO for the GIS, Immigration Controlling Officer ICO Ibn Yussif Seidu Duranah disclosed this while speaking to Radio Ghana’s Mark Smith at Wa.
The most recent arrest saw the apprehension of six Burkina Faso Nationals at the Nadowli Police Checkpoint.
According to ICO Yussif Seidu Duranah, the six persons aged between two and 55 years entered the country through unapproved routes and then hired a mini bus with registration number BA 2761-14 “with the intent of using an alternative route to Wa to swerve the vigilant Immigration Officers at the Babile Inland Checkpoint”.
He said the arrest was made after a tip off. The six were then screened by health personnel and returned to the Hamile Border Post to be handed over to Burkina Faso authorities on the other side of the border.
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo directed the closure of Ghana’s borders and ports on the March 22 earlier this year. Only cargo, goods and supplies were to be allowed into the country. The move was to aid Ghana’s fight against the global Coronavirus, COVID-19.
This notwithstanding, a number of Ghanaians and foreign nationals have attempted using unapproved routes throughout the country to either enter or exit the country, the Regional PRO for the GIS, ICO Ibn Yussif Seidu Duranah admitted that the Upper West Region has many known and unknown unapproved routes into the country.
He said during the dry season, it is particularly easy for residents along either sides of the banks of the Black Volta to cross from one country to the other making it extremely difficult for the GIS personnel to do their job.
“If you go to the Hamile Border Sector for example, we have as many as 12 known unapproved routes. These known unapproved routes are manned 24/7 by personnel of the Ghana Immigration Service. In the dry season that the water in the Black Volta is down, the entire river stretch is accessible to these people [illegal migrants],” he explained.
The PRO of the Upper West Regional GIS Command said on both sides of the border ‘watilogies’ [persons who facilitate illegal entry and exit of migrants] continued to make their work difficult.
ICO Yussif Seidu Duranah was unhappy that local residents interfered with the work of the GIS saying “our biggest challenge is the local border residents. They feel like we are stampeding in their economic activities. You go to pick a border resident for flouting the rules and then the opinion leaders of the area throng the area to plead on behalf of the fellow and this is very disgusting”.
He mentioned that several efforts to dialogue with the opinion leaders to explain that the GIS is at the border to protect not only the sovereignty of the country but the border residents against harm has often fallen on deaf ears.
ICO Yussif Seidu Duranah mentioned that while logistics might be inadequate, the GIS together with the Ghana Armed Forces, the Ghana Police and other state agencies have intensified patrols of unapproved routes while also educating residents on the need to help the agencies prevent unlawful entry and exit into the country particularly at a time when the country is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 UPDATES IN THE UW REGION
On 3rd May, the Upper West Region recorded 11 additional cases of the Coronavirus. The addition brings the total count of confirmed cases in the region to 19 with one fully recovered person reintegrated into society. This was contained in a statement signed by the Upper West Regional Minister, Dr Hafiz Bin Salih.
“Of the eleven, one is a resident of Wa who returned from Kenya on the 16th of February 2020. He traveled back to Wa by public transport and upon arrival, self-quarantined for about 2 weeks,” the statement disclosed.
The Minister through the statement mentioned that 3 of the newly confirmed 11 cases were contacts of the Nigerian man based in Wa who was diagnosed 3 weeks ago while the remaining 7 persons were picked up from the Sissala East Municipality following the mandatory screening of travelers arriving in the district from Kumasi and Accra.
While 5 of the 7 are with officials receiving treatment, efforts are being made to identify and isolate the remaining two. The Minister Dr Bin Salih, appealed to residents throughout the region to remain calm and cooperate with the authorities and provide as much information as they can.
He stressed the need for social distancing, hand washing and the use of face mask to help break transmission of the disease.
OTHER ACTIVITIES HAPPENING
As part of activities to help manage and prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus, the Upper West Regional Red Cross Society has held a series of radio and market sensitization across the region. According to the Regional Manager, Jeremiah Afako, the two specific platforms were chosen due to their likelihood to reach more people.
“The markets and radio because we can reach more people than the house to house strategy,” he said. He added that in engaging with residents through radio and market engagement, the risk of volunteers being exposed to the disease is minimized.
Mr Afako added that to help address the COVID-19 and CSM in the region, Ghana Red Cross Society is also expected to begin a series of health education programmes, livelihood support outreaches and community based surveillance on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the Lambussie, Nadowli districts and Nandom, Lawra and Wa Municipalities.
These support programmes are expected to last until September.
Story filed Mark Smith/GBC