These are interesting times when it comes to the subject of Immigration across the globe. U.S President Donald Trump is adamant on building "the wall" that would shut out Mexican immigrants, Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage (born Sheyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph) stands the risk of being deported to the United Kingdom after living in America for nearly 14 years, and now, the diplomatic relationship between Ghana and Nigeria is up for evaluation once again.
No, this is not about jollof wars, or football rivalry. It is significantly more complex.
In 1983 as the Nigerian economy weakened, then president Shehu Shagari ordered aliens without proper immigration documents to leave the country or face imprisonment. Over one million Ghanaians were effected by that pronouncement, and placing their belongings in chequered cheap bags, they headed for the borders, battling with hunger and sudden refugee status. Thirty six years later, Ghana appears to be returning the favour, albeit to a smaller degree.
In the last thirteen months, the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) has facilitated the deportation of more than 723 Nigerians. In January 2019 alone, over 196 Nigerians were sent back home.
This is to a large extent surprising, as both countries seem to enjoy a brotherly relationship. Their nationals intermarry, their cultures intersect, and away from arguments bordering on superiority, they share similar music and cuisines. Why, then, would Ghana decide that it does not want to see (some) Nigerians anymore?
According to Kwame Takyi, Comptroller-General of the GIS, "some Nigerians have become laws in themselves; they block major Ghanaian streets where they drink, fight and stab one another. This unruly behaviour which contravenes the local laws in Ghana has led to directives from higher authorities for the arrests and eventual deportation of those who do not have the requisite immigration papers."
Michael Abikoye, Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, has expressed his displeasure, stating that no Ghanaians have been deported in recent times, and warning that no maltreatment of Nigerians would be tolerated.
Sure enough, Abikoye has a right to feel hard done by, owing to the long-standing relationship between both countries. Whether the recent actions of Ghanaian authorities would have far-reaching diplomatic implications remains to be seen, but the fact remains that a nation's immigration department is within its rights to eject undesirable elements from its shores, especially where said elements are seen to be constituting a nuisance and/or tarnishing the country's reputation. The deportations that were effected by Ghana in January 2019 were done on the grounds of overstay, cybercrime and prostitution.
Nigerians find it hard to get into the United States or United Kingdom, the process of migration to Canada is more difficult, the European Union (EU) nations have not been too accomodating, and now we are being ejected by our neighbours too! We may not have to scout for big chequered bags to help our nationals leave Accra, but we have to ask ourselves why we are treated as unwanted visitors around the world.
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