Covid-19 Repatriation from Abroad: Government’s Decision Callous and discriminatory

It is rather unfortunate that the Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its consulates who have instituted plans to evacuate stranded Ghanaians abroad, have rather created an atmosphere where those who require help to return, are rather choosing the option to remain stranded.

Not long ago, the Government, in talks with the Nigerian Government, agreed to an evacuation plan which was to cost between USD800 and USD1,000 from Abuja to Accra and between USD700 and USD900 from Lagos to Accra.

In a notice published which was signed on or about the 29th of May, 2020, the Ghana High Commission in Abuja proceeded to provide a limited list of four (4) hotels whose lodging fee ranged between Ghc7,700 and Ghc9,800 resulting from an imposition of a compulsory 14 day quarantine.

We woke up to another similar letter titled Evacuation of stranded Ghanaians issued on Monday 15th June, 2020 by the New York Consulate General which seeks to communicate to our stranded compatriots in the United States of America of the Government of Ghana’s plans to transport them back to Ghana on or about the 25th of June, 2020.

In that letter, the Consulate announced air fees of USD1,350 for Economy Class and USD2,840 for Business Class in a supposed chartered flight. In addition, a restricted accommodation arrangement was made for two (2) plush hotels in Accra whose cost is Ghc550 and Ghc650 per night with a mandatory 14 day quarantine and the possibility of an extended period of 21 days.

From the above figures, any evacuee who chooses to lodge in the lowest of the two accommodation options provided, would have to cough an amount of Ghc7,700 for the 14 day mandatory quarantine and in the case of an extended period of 21 day, a total accommodation fee of Ghc11,550 in addition to the air fare of between Ghc8,100 ($1,350) and Ghc17,040 ($2,840).

For the evacuee who opts for highest accommodation in these two options provided, he or she must be prepared to cough an amount of Ghc9,100 for the 14 days mandatory quarantine and if extended for the 21 days period, an amount of Ghc13,650 in addition to an air fare of between Ghc8,100 ($1,350) and Ghc17,040 ($2,840).

I would have thought that our Government would be mindful that these individuals are categorized as stranded which provides that their economic conditions are completely in disarray for which many would require the help of the government to return to their homeland.

Since the closures of our boarders some 3 months ago, many Ghanaians who found themselves outside of the country and who are not residents in these respective countries they found themselves, have suffered as a result of unbudgeted expenses which has placed a huge economic burden on them.

Since we announced the closures, Government, through the Minister for Finance, made several proposals to the House of Parliament and secured funds that were categorized for use in providing support to the most affected in our society by the outbreak of Covid-19. The ordinary Ghanaian can immediately recall the USD35 million received from the World Bank, the USD1 billion rapid credit from the IMF and a whopping 1.2 billion Cedis released from the Contingency Funds to enable government make interventions in this regard.

It is also easy to recall that Ghanaians who even had the opportunity to return to Ghana in the early days of the outbreak, even though cannot be said to have suffered the huge financial burdens our current evacuees have gone through, have had to be provided accommodation, feeding and transportation to their isolation facilities free of charge and the cost borne by the state.

It makes one wonder what reasoning could have gone into the decision to impose full cost on our own compatriots who have suffered where they find themselves now since the middle of March to today.

Government must realize its obligation to protect the lives and properties of Ghanaians. At this critical moment, there are reports of stranded citizens who are in dire need of government support to return to Ghana, opting to remain stranded over air fare as well as cost of quarantine which they say they cannot afford, (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/More-stranded-Ghanaians-in-US-abandon-evacuation-over-cost-981307).

I call on the Government to reconsider its decision and fashion out a plan to provide the needed support to those who are unable to afford the cost involved in returning to their motherland. The inability to afford cost of air ticket should not make them non-Ghanaians.

Signed:
Rockson-Nelson E.K. Dafeamekpor Esq.
MP, South Dayi
Member, Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
Parliament, Ghana

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