Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right.
Violence and Harassment: The Media Foundation for West Africa counted 17 cases of attacks on journalists from January 2017 to March 2018. Earlier in the year, police assaulted a reporter who had visited the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters to report on the arrest of a political party official. The reporter sustained fractures to his skull. Officials reported an investigative report was submitted to administrators in May and provided no further information as of September. In June there were reports that a member of parliament criticized and incited violence against a prominent journalist whose investigative crew produced a film about corruption in Ghana soccer, including involvement by government officials.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
The internet was accessible in Accra and other large cities. There was limited but growing internet access in other areas. According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 38 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights. In an effort to curb human trafficking, however, the government in 2017 imposed a ban on labor recruitment to Gulf countries after increased reports of abuse endured by migrant workers. Media investigations during the year revealed some recruitment agencies continued their operations despite the ban.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Gender-based violence remained a problem. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of the end of October, there were 36 incidents of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) reported from refugee camps, in addition to 46 cases of verbal assaults and threats. UNHCR worked with Department of Social Welfare personnel and the Ghana Health Service psychosocial counselors to provide medical, psychosocial, security, and legal assistance where necessary in all the cases reported. Obstacles to holding perpetrators of SGBV accountable for acts conducted in the camps included ineffective access to civil and criminal legal counseling for victims; poor coordination among the Department of Social Welfare, the Legal Aid Scheme, and police; and lack of representation for the alleged perpetrator and presumed victims.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law allows rejected asylum seekers to appeal and remain in the country until an appeal is adjudicated. A four-member appeals committee, appointed by the minister of the interior, is responsible for adjudicating the appeals, but the process continued to be subject to delays. As of November the government had a backlog of 1,192 asylum seekers whose petitions were pending adjudication, plus another 43 individual asylum seekers who are awaiting a second decision following an initial rejection of their petition.
Employment: Refugees could apply for work permits through the same process as other foreigners; however, work permits were generally issued only for employment in the formal sector, while the majority of refugees worked in the informal sector.
Durable Solutions: In 2011 nearly 18,000 residents of Cote d’Ivoire fled to Ghana because of political instability following Cote d’Ivoire’s disputed 2010 presidential election. From January to early November, UNHCR assisted in the voluntary repatriation of 258 Ivoirian refugees–a slow but steady increase the agency attributed to better assistance packages and better information provided to Ivoirians about the situation in their home country. Although the government granted Ivoirian refugees prima facie refugee status during the initial stages of the emergency, by the end of 2012, the government had transitioned to individual refugee status determination for all Ivoirians entering thereafter.
In late November a group of Sudanese refugees began camping outside the UNHCR office in Accra, calling for improved assistance related to health, shelter, food, and resettlement. The population is part of a protracted backlog of cases. A decision from the Ministry of Interior regarding possible integration as a durable solution remained pending.
In 2012 UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration assisted with the voluntary repatriation of more than 4,700 Liberians from Ghana. Approximately 3,700 Liberians opted for local integration. UNHCR and the Ghana Refugee Board continued to work with the Liberian government to issue the Liberians passports, enabling them to subsequently receive a Ghanaian residence and work permit. As of May the Liberian government had issued 352 passports to this population. As of November an estimated 200 Liberians were still awaiting passports. The Ghana Immigration Service also supported the process by issuing reduced-cost residency permits, including work permits for adults, to locally integrating former Liberian refugees.