When refugees arrive in the Ghana, it is the Refugee Board's responsibility to ensure their wellbeing, as per its mandate. The board also cooperates with other agencies to carry out its mandate. The board partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other state agencies such as National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) to assist these refugees. Functions of the board are outlined in Ghana Refugee Law 1992 (PNDCL 305D) section 5, Which states the following.
• Receive and consider applications for refugee status;
• Recognise any person or group of persons asrefugees for the purposes of this Law;
• Register and keep a register of persons recognised as refugees under this Law;
• Seek co-operation with non-governmentalorganisations on masters relating to refugees;
• Assist in seeking employment or education for refugees and members of their families;
• Endeavour to ensure the provision of adequate facilities,advice and services for the reception and care of refugees in Ghana;
• Administer and manage the Refugee Fund established under this Law;
• Advise the minister on all matters relating to refugees;
• Perform all functions conferred upon it under this Law and perform any other function that may be assigned to it by the P.N.D.C.
The Ghana Refugee Board is tasked with coordinating all activities relating to the management and care of refugees in Ghana. It is the sole agency mandated to grant refugee status to persons seeking asylum in the country. It advises Government on refugee management policy and ensures that Government policy and directives are adhered to in the management of the refugee programme.
The GRB generally manages the refugee programme in Ghana. In order to ensure that Government is abreast of all activities and issues in the refugee programme, the GRB signs an annual tripartite project sub-agreement with UNHCR and implementing partners. The core activities of the GRB include the following:
• Refugee Policy: All major policy decisions related to refugees are taken by the Board and Government is advised accordingly. GRB also ensures that Government decisions and directives are implemented as stipulated.
• Refugee Status Determination: GRB registers, interviews and recognize or rejects application for refugee status by asylum seekers. This activity takes place all year round. This involves staff of the Secretariat at one level and the Board at a later stage.
• Counseling: Counseling services are offered to refugees and asylum seekers who require them on a weekly basis.
• Verification Exercises: The Board together with UNHCR organises periodic verification exercises which basically is the headcount of refugees. These are done for various populations (i.e. nationality) or done on location basis.
• Camp Management: The Board manages the refugee camps in the country. There are currently three (3) Ivorian camps: Ampain and Egyeikrom in the Western Region and Fetentaa in the Brong-Ahafo Region and one (1) mixed population camp at Krisan in the Western Region. The Buduburam Settlement still has persons of concern, namely Liberian refugees who were granted exemption from the Cessation Clause. Permission to visit any refugee camp for any purpose by individuals or organisations must be sanctioned by the Secretariat. The National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) has by convention, provided staff for managing the various camps.
• Documentation: The Board issues identity cards to refugees and attestation documents mainly for asylum seekers. Also, the Board is responsible for issuing the UN Convention Travel Documents for recognised refugees who require them for travel. This is in agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. The Board also assists recognised refugees who require work permits to obtain them from the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) and facilitates the provision of services by state and other agencies to refugees and asylum seekers.
• Local Integration: The Board works closely with the Ghana Immigration Service to implement the legal aspect of Local Integration for refugees who opt for local integration (LI). This entails issuance of residence and work permits.
• Naturalization: GRB is responsible for assisting refugees who qualify for and apply to naturalise as Ghanaians. The Board is currently assisting one individual who has applied for naturalisation.
• Advocacy: Ghana Refugee Board per its mandate carries out sustained advocacy programs with stakeholders to throw more light on the existence of refugees in Ghana and these advocacy programs in the past have yielded and still continue to produce results such as waiver of school fees as foreigners for both secondary and tertiary, improved access to healthcare, opening of bank accounts among other services.
• Oversight Role: GRB oversees all activities implemented by UNHCR and the implementing partners. Activities and services provided to refugees include the following:
1. Security – Services provided by the police with GRB liaising.
2. Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH).
3. Shelter provision.
5. Food distribution.
6. Livelihood activities including skills training.