The government has made headway in its desire to reverse visa restrictions imposed on the country by the United States government three months ago.
Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States of America, Dr Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah, said the government, led by the Foreign Minister, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, had held two successful meetings with the US authorities aimed at bringing the restrictions to an end.
“We are about holding the third meeting in the coming weeks and we trust that there will be finality to the restrictions based on mutual understanding,” he told the Daily Graphic in an exclusive interview in Houston, Texas.
The US government imposed visa restrictions on Ghana for what it said was the government’s failure to issue travel documents to over 7,000 Ghanaian citizens awaiting deportation from the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security, in a statement last February, ordered the US Embassy in Ghana to discontinue issuing all non-immigrant visas (NIV) to two groups of Ghanaian applicants, starting February 4, 2019.
They are the domestic employees of Ghanaian diplomats posted to the United States.
Limitations were also placed on the validity and the number of entries on new tourists and business visas for all Ghanaian Executive and Legislative branch employees, their spouses and their children under 21 years to one-month single entry.
Since the imposition of the restrictions, some workers of public institutions who used to receive five-year visas now get up to three weeks maximum, with others having far less.
There are fears that should the issue remain unresolved, the restrictions will be extended to other groups as part of the effort to mount pressure on the government to heed the demand of the US government to issue visas to the over 7,000 Ghanaians pinned for deportation.
Fears of citizens
There is some apprehension that the government is dragging its feet in terms of how the issues are to be resolved.
Some people claim that given the time and money involved in acquiring a US visa, it was necessary for the government to work to have the matter resolved as soon as possible before it escalated to affect Ghanaians who were not government officials.
Progress to date
Dr Adjei-Barfuor said discussions held behind the scenes had been positive so far and expressed confidence that as the issues were made clearer to the US authorities, they would understand the position of the government and reverse the restrictions.
“We are becoming the poster boy for Africa and so we ought to be able to stay the course and get this matter off the table so that we can move on and maintain our position as the eye of the continent of Africa,” he said.
Advise on passport
Meanwhile, Dr Adjei-Barwuah has asked the government to mete out severe sanctions on Ghanaians found aiding foreigners to acquire Ghanaian passports.
“If anyone is identified to have sold a passport or aided somebody to illegally acquire a passport, we should ban that person by not getting him or her a travel document for about 10 years.
The sanctions on such people must be tough enough to deter others from doing same,” he said.
“Ghanaians should know that the passport belongs to the state. It clearly states the one who can use it,” he added.
Subsequently, he called for a deliberate national awareness creation programme to educate the masses on the grave consequences of acquiring, or more seriously, aiding a foreigner to acquire a Ghanaian passport illegally.
He said the issue of ‘Goro boys’ who aided that illegal process must be taken seriously and discouraged.
“Our borders are porous and so we must not allow foreigners to invade our country and then aid them to have our passports and create problems for us as a nation,” he said.