A fortnight ago the United States Ambassador to Ghana H.E. Robert Jackson told journalists in the beautiful Ghanaian region of Brong Ahafo that the United States of America was in the process of deporting an eye-popping and staggering seven thousand (7,000) Ghanaians who he said have abused the terms of their visas.
The respected Ambassador is quoted to have stated: “in fact about 7,000 of them are currently at different stages of the deportation process and we are not apologetic about that”.
If US authorities proceed as planned, this would be the largest deportation of Ghanaians since the 1983 retaliatory deportation of some 1 million Ghanaians from Nigeria which was triggered by fall outs from the implementation of President Busia’s Aliens Compliance Order.
Every country reserves the right to enforce its laws and the United States of America cannot be an exception if she is applying her laws in a fair, just and humane manner. In the same vein, all countries reserve the right to seek the welfare and protection of their citizens even if those citizens have been accused of infractions just as the United States itself has always done and continues to do for her citizens in trouble with the law in other countries including ongoing talks with Pyongyang over the detention of 4 US nationals by the North Korean regime.
The incredible news of the mass deportation of 7,000 of our compatriots on such a gigantic scale which has made international news headlines should have engaged our attention and even more the attention of our government than it has so far elicited. This melancholic reaction is certainly not the way forward. We must not create the impression that we care less for our kith and kin outside the jurisdiction of Ghana.
Ghanaians deserve to know exactly who these 7,000 Ghanaian immigrants are. What are their specific offences? Is deportation the only solution? What duty of care and support services (consular, legal and psychological) can they expect from their Government? Even if some may have to be deported; under what conditions will they be deported devoid of the human rights abuses that have often characterised previous deportations not ever forgetting the 54 who were recently deported from the US in chains as though they were some rear wild animals? Is there a timeframe for these deportations? Are any of the 7,000 already being held by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)? What resettlement arrangements will have to be made here for them? Is the Ghanaian economy able to absorb these 7,000 Ghanaians and what will be the larger economic ramifications?
These are crucial questions any country in our shoes will be finding answers to. It is in the absence of the answers required that I intend to file an urgent question when Parliament returns from recess for the attention of the Honourable Foreign Minister, Mrs. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey.
Be that as it may, this matter ought to be treated as a national crisis requiring the activation of high level international diplomatic manoeuvre under the direct leadership of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. As that is going on, our 7,000 compatriots and all others out there must be made to know that they are not alone, that they have not been thrown under the bus and that regardless of their circumstances; help is on the way -they can count on our support.
This is what all nations who really care about their citizens do – two recent examples will suffice: the first - we have all been witnesses of how the Chinese Government through her embassy in Accra has stood up for their citizens here in Ghana regardless of all the charges we have levelled against them in the fight against illegal small scale mining popularly known as “galamsey”. The second - we cannot be oblivious of how the Mexican Government led by its President, H.E. Enrique Pena Nieto has openly rebuffed attempts by the Trump administration to denigrate Mexican immigrants and President Nieto’s successful refusal to pay for President Trump’s US-Mexico border wall.
That said, we all need to be sufficiently honest to admit that these are not normal times for immigrants living in the west. Even very legal and documented immigrants have come under the most inhumane and barbaric treatment that defy every standard of human decency. The United Nations acknowledges this scourge with its 19thSeptember, 2016 “New York Declaration”.
In March this year, I made a statement on the floor of Parliament drawing attention to the rise in hate crimes against immigrants citing official statistics from the west. In that statement, I quoted from an FBI report which had documented 7,121 hate crimes against immigrants living in the United States in 2015 alone. I also referenced a German Interior Ministry report of 26th February 2017 which stated that at least 10 immigrants were violently attacked each day in Germany. The report provided further details by indicating that in 2016 there were 3,533 attacks on migrant and asylum hostels, 2,545 attacks on individual immigrants, 988 attacks on homes of immigrants, 217 attacks on refugee organisations and volunteers while 560 including 43 children sustained injuries in these attacks. I did also allude to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Report in which British politicians were indicted for inciting racial hatred during the Brexit campaign and official UK Police statistics which revealed an unconscionable 3,000 cases of racial nature reported by immigrants during that same period.
There has not been a single presidential electioneering campaign or referendum in the west in recent years which has not been dominated by anti-immigration rhetoric. Immigrants are being blamed for everything from decline in economic opportunities to crimes against locals.
It is generally agreed by political pundits that the effective campaign of fear against immigrants did the trick for the Leave Campaign during last year’s UK referendum on its status with the European Union. Similar objective analysis of the US election that saw the emergence of Donald Trump does not differ either. Neither does this narrative change in assessing the recent elections in Austria, Holland and France where ultra-right wing populist nationalist anti-muslim anti-immigration bigoted politicians; specifically referring to Norbert Hofer, Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen respectively, have shocked many not only by their politics of hatred and division but more for the massive support their political parties and warped ideas enjoy amongst many western voters. It is horrifying that like White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, all these three are self-acclaimed disciples of the dangerous ultra-nationalist Charles Maurras (1868-1952) who first propounded the theory of the two Frances – “pays reel”, the real France with only native people and “pays legal”, the legal France which he argued was run by functionaries conspiring for alien interests and how he loathed it.
I should hasten to commend the eventual winners and the majority of voters no matter how slim that majority is becoming in these countries these days for their fortitude in holding dear the sacred principles of humanity, social justice and equality. However, this should merely serve as a glimmer of hope, it does not in my humble view provide concrete hope that the far right anti-immigration wave is receding, therefore, let the famous and inspirational victory of France’s Emmanuel Macron last weekend not serve as a tranquilizer to activists, rather, it should spur us on to work harder in putting the final nail in the coffin of bigotry wherever they exist.
Now let us examine the alleged sins of immigrants:
The oft-repeated charge is that immigrants are parasites and that they narrow economic opportunities of indigenes. This can only be akin to Hitlerite propaganda.
According to Atlantic, 40% of Fortune 500 companies in the United States were founded by either immigrants or the children of immigrants. Some of these iconic companies founded by immigrants are EBay, Pfizer, Capital One, Kraft, Panda Express, Intel, Zumba, Huffington Post, Google, Kohl’s, Tesla, AT&T, Yahoo, Chobani, Goldman Sachs, Nordstrom, Comcast, Colgate and Radio Shack just to mention a few. The far-right haters don’t add this fact to their manifesto. They also do not add that immigrant-founded Fortune 500 companies employed 3.6 million workers around the world in 2011 and were responsible for more than $1.7 trillion in revenues in 2010, according to the Partnership For A New American Economy.
Those job-creation tendencies aren’t unique to a few success stories. A 2012 report found immigrants as a whole are more than twice as likely to start a business as someone born in America. With that comes job creation: as of 2011, immigrant-run businesses employed one in 10 American workers.
So in reality, immigrants have created more jobs than they have taken.
Having acknowledged that, we can agree to have a discussion on the effects of globalization on ALL countries and NOT only western nations. Additionally, a frank discussion on the governance and economies of African nations and other third world countries that creates more opportunities should not be left out.
At some point, we will also have to concede that global capitalism is in crisis – too many booms and bursts, debilitating effects of several recessions, unfair trade, fat bonuses for a few winners, the taking over of jobs for humans by machines, inability to protect the 50% of Americans who now own only a paltry 1% of America’s wealth – In the US, this is the group referred to as the “squeezed middle”, in Britain they are known as the “left behinds” and in France the “couches moyennes”.
Faced therefore with the structural deficiencies of capitalism, Immigrants should not be used as convenient scape goats by those who totally miss the point.
The other much trumpeted sin of immigrants is the claim that immigrants are criminals who have made the west unsafe.
This is another wild claim which has absolutely no basis in fact or truth. As I provided above, official statistics by western institutions rather point to the fact that immigrants are the victims of hate crimes and are not culprits.
Strangely, the far-right nationalists and anti-immigration demagogues fail to tell their followers that per current official statistics, more westerners are committing suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined.
History is indeed a jumble of unbelievable ironies. Some of the people propounding alien theories today are the very people whose ancestors as immigrants dislodged natives to establish their kingdoms, the same people who led invasions into other sovereignties, the people who forced others out of their home countries and sold them out as slaves, the people who colonised other countries to advance their narrow economic interests and the very people who feared Nelson Mandela may not permit the whites in South Africa to stay and so today we are happy and proud to observe that we have white Africans who feel very much at home with us.
It is quite distressful that after the progress of humankind in roundly defeating slavery, segregation, apartheid and colonialism, we will now be faced with a plaque of racism and violent discrimination manifesting as anti-immigration, Islamophobia, Christianophobia, xenophobia and antisemitism.
The attacks on immigrants is enough.
How many more deaths, how many more physical and psychological injuries before we see and hear the African Union, regional blocs and African Governments form strong partnerships with other global organisations and actors in mobilizing we the people to formidably hunt down this menace.
The time for action is NOW!
Our own celebrated Ghanaian architect, himself an immigrant; Sir David Adjaye who has just been named Time Magazine’s most influential architect and tipped by industry players to design President Barack Obama’s presidential library may have set the tone by expressing his clearest solidarity yet with people of African descent by designing arguably the most iconic monument of our time -The National Museum of African American History and Culture on Washington’s National Mall, it is now our turn to come together to voice our solidarity with our own 7,000.
By Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (MP)
Ranking Member, Parliament’s Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.