The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has called on heads of diplomatic missions in Ghana to facilitate the national effort to curb the maltreatment of Ghanaian labour migrants in their various countries, particularly in the Gulf Region.
She said the inputs of the diplomats would make it easier to address the issue and ensure that Ghanaian migrants were treated with dignity.
Ms Botchwey, in an engagement with the diplomats from Asia, the Pacific and the Middle-East on issues of mutual concern to Ghana and their respective countries in Accra yesterday, said the government was determined to protect its citizens abroad.
The meeting was the third in a series of diplomatic interactive sessions to dialogue on how to strengthen and advance relations with all foreign missions and their respective countries.
Ms Botchwey said the call was underpinned by recent reports on how some Ghanaian domestic workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman), commonly called the Gulf States, were abused and maltreated by their employers.
She submitted that any attack on a Ghanaian anywhere was an attack on the sovereignty of Ghana, for which reason the government was determined to protect its citizens anywhere, particularly legal migrants.
“Our objective is to use diplomacy to give enhanced protection to our citizens abroad; and these issues need to be stressed as we continue to receive reports of abuse of our citizens who are recruited by job agents to work in some Gulf States,” she stated.
The Foreign Minister said the issue needed to be confronted openly in an honest and contrite manner, and not only to be condemned.
She said practical and urgent steps, such as ensuring that those found culpable were made to face the legal consequences, to serve as a deterrent to others, had become crucial.
“We are very confident that your governments will not condone such unlawful acts; therefore, we can work collectively to stem this negative trend,” she said.
Ms Botchwey also called for their cooperation to leverage the goodwill, democratic credentials and respect for the various countries to attract more development and business partners to propel mutual economic growth.
To address the alarming rate at which Ghanaian labour migrants were being maltreated abroad, the state set up an inter-ministerial task force to crack down on illegal recruitment agencies which exported young females to Arab countries as house helps, only for them to be maltreated and sometimes killed.
The task force, which included the ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Interior, Labour and Employment, also had, as one of its core duties, to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Arab countries which made use of the house helps to treat them with dignity.
At the moment, the government has signed an agreement with Jordan, with protective clauses to protect Ghanaians whose services were exported and ensure that they were treated with dignity.
On the government’s vision to revamp the economy, Ms Botchwey said it saw the diplomatic missions as major development partners and appealed to them to support the government’s one district, one factory and one village, one dam policies.
“The realisation of this vision has mutual advantages for all of us. I, therefore, have no doubt that you will all give your total support,” she told the envoys.
Making a contribution, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, reiterated his call on the diplomats to collaborate effectively with the government to end the menace of illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, in the country.
He made a video presentation on the extent of destruction caused by galamsey to the environment and water bodies and explained that the government was not against mining but rather the methodology being used which was threatening the survival of the country’s natural resources.
Mr Amewu urged the diplomats to educate and sensitise their citizens to the laws of the country and ensure that they conducted their businesses in accordance with the laws of Ghana.
He described the diplomats and their respective countries as key partners and stakeholders in Ghana’s development and urged them to join forces in the national fight against galamsey.
He said the government, for its part, was taking measures to curb the illegal activity, emphasising that small-scale mining was reserved for only Ghanaians.
He cited citizens of Mali, Nigeria, Togo and Ghana, as well as some Chinese, among others, as those who had, over the period, engaged in illegal mining and caused destruction to the environment.