The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to lead and coordinate action to protect refugees, and work with the Government of Ghana to resolve refugee problems in Ghana. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. UNHCR also has a mandate to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect stateless persons.

UNHCR seeks to reduce situations of forced displacement by encouraging States and other institutions to create conditions which are conducive to the protection of human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes. In all of its activities, the refugee agency pays particular attention to the needs of children and seeks to promote equal rights of women and girls.

Facts and figures

In Ghana, the total number of Persons of Concern (PoC) to UNHCR at the end of June 2016 was 18,457 comprised of 16,409 refugees and 2,048 asylum-seekers from over 25 different countries of origin. Most refugees in Ghana come from Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Liberia, Sudan, and CAR.

The priorities of UNHCR’s work in Ghana are to mainstream basic and social services for refugees into the national system and to ensure safe and sustainable livelihoods for them; to secure durable solutions for refugees; and to prevent statelessness in situations of prolonged exile.

The central operational activities are protection, livelihoods and empowerment, durable solutions, education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, shelter and provision of non-food items, and access to energy (fuel efficient stoves, briquettes).

Ghana asylum context

In Ghana, refugees have the freedom of movement (no encampment policy), the right to work, and opportunities provided by legal framework for local integration (including residency and naturalisation).

Most refugees have been in Ghana for at least five years, with the most recent influx being that of Ivorian Refugees in mid-2011. Other refugee groups arrived mostly in the 90s or early 2000s.

Finding durable solutions is therefore of utmost importance to allow refugees to acquire, or re-acquire, the full protection of a state. This can be achieved through voluntary repatriation, local integration, and - provided the eligibility criteria are met - resettlement. Long-standing displacement situations require reaching out beyond the humanitarian community and developing new ways to help refugees build a better future.

Engaging closely with national and local government and development organisations is essential in order to link refugee communities with development and peace building processes, to help them become socially integrated, and economically self-reliant, and to provide them with alternative legal status.

Main challenges in Ghana

The main challenges in the country are: limited support for socio-economically vulnerable households; securing sustainable livelihoods; low quality of shelter; lack of school feeding in refugee camps; lack of scholarships for refugee youth for secondary and tertiary education (scholarship opportunities); and limited legal assistance for refugees and asylum seekers in the area of Refugee Status Determination (RSD) and Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Working with partners

Partnership is central to UNHCR’s work, in particular in the search for durable solutions and provision of equal access to basic services and fostering sustainable livelihoods.

In Ghana, UNHCR works with the Government through the Ministry of the Interior, the Ghana Refugee Board (GRB), Ghana Immigration Services (GIS), Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and other relevant government agencies and departments in ensuring asylum seekers and refugees have effective access to basic and protection services.

UNHCR cooperates with other state agencies such as the Department of Social Development, Births and Deaths Registry, National Health Insurance Authority, Ghana Education Service, National Disaster Management Organization, and District/Municipal Assemblies in the provision of services to refugees.

Other partners include: the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG), the National Catholic Secretariat (NCS), and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

Operational support is provided by UNFPA, IOM and UNAIDS.

In particular, UN agency partnerships targeting refugees include:

  • WFP: until September 2015, Supplementary feeding, one greenhouse & nutrition surveys
  • UNICEF: WASH, child protection, education, health & nutrition
  • UNFPA: condom & hygiene kits, advise on reproductive health sensitisation, prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence
  • IOM: health screening, logistics support during Voluntary Repatriation and Resettlement, contribution to cash grants for LI Liberians, Recreational Centre in Egyeikrom
  • UNDP: funding assistance for refugees from local organisations for shelter and nutrition
  • UNIDO: livelihood activities for Liberians from 2007 to 2010
  • UNAIDS: $74,900 for Local Health Consultant and HIV/AIDS activities