Mr Speaker, the issue of abuse of Ghanaian young ladies working as domestic assistants by their employers in the Arabian Gulf remains a matter of concern to our Missions in the region, especially in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, among others, where they are subjected to all kinds of alleged abuses.
These range from extortion of moneys by their recruiters, displacement, unpaid wages, sex slavery, lack of basic social protection such as access to medical care, confiscation of passports and deprivation of independent movement, false accusations of theft by employers leading
to their arbitrary arrest and incarceration, and other forms of abusive treatment including violence, resulting in reported cases of suicide.
The Ghana Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which is concurrently accredited to most of these Gulf States has reported extensively on the plight of the Ghanaian domestic workers and continues to do its best despite various constraints:
Usually, when the Embassy receives such reports, it brings them to the attention of the host Foreign Ministry. However, it often finds itself handicapped by the fact that most of the employment contracts under which Ghanaian nationals are engaged are made privately and the Embassy is not privy to their terms.
Secondly, it is physically impossible for the Embassy to identify the places where all the Ghanaians suffering abuses may reside. Hence, it is only able to assist when alerted by other Africans or Ghanaian settlers, including taxi drivers.
In some cases where the abused employees manage to escape, the Embassy provides them with shelter at the Chancery and, where necessary, also arranges medical treatment for them.
The Mission also works through benevolent individuals and religious organisations to see to the welfare of such persons.
In the case of Kuwait, it is reported that the authorities are not cooperative when it comes to granting visas for Embassy officials to undertake consular missions to ascertain the plight of
Ghanaians. With the decision to open a new Mission in that country, it is hoped access would be considerably improved and the situation of Ghanaian nationals closely monitored.
Mr Speaker, in spite of the difficult circumstances in which our Mission has to operate, it is doing its best to protect Ghanaians. Following the recent grant by Saudi Arabia of a 3-month amnesty for illegal immigrants, which has now been extended to 24th July, 2017, the Riyadh Mission has already processed over 800 Ghanaians for departure.
In order to discourage people from violating the amnesty and risking arrest, the Mission is making efforts through social and electronic media to propagate the information in Ghana and Saudi Arabia.
The Ghana Mission in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah have, in this regard, subsidised the cost of processing of Travel Certificates from SR200 (Saudi Riyadh) to SR50, to enable our compatriots take advantage of the offer and leave the country without paying penalties for overstaying.
It may also be noted that due to the fact that our Mission's budget is normally limited and cannot cater for all issues that come to the attention of the Mission, the Internatioanl Organisation for Migration (IOM) is normally called upon for assistance, which normally comes in the form of procuring air tickets for repatriation as well as cater for basic needs such as food and shelter.
The issue of human trafficking continues to raise concerns both at the national and international levels because of the human rights breaches it engenders. The Ministry, through its Missions,
continues to offer assistance, although limited by constraints of funding, to citizens who seek the protection of the State of Ghana.
Other State agencies, civil society organisations, including the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and IOM continue to play various roles in addressing the phenomenon.
Currently, a coordinated strategy is being implemented within defined scopes and timelines. Following an inter- Ministerial meeting held on 11th July, 2017, it has been agreed that a secretariat would be set up and it would comprise representatives of all stakeholders to deal with the issue of human trafficking.
In line with the Ministry's public diplomacy engagement, outreach programmes at community levels would be undertaken both in Ghana and in our Missions abroad.
The Ministry would also do well to engage the diplomatic Missions of the destination countries to ensure that visas are not issued to persons who are not recognised by any competent Ghanaian authority for purposes of labour migration.
We must, as a country, explore the prospects of concluding some basic agreements to regulate these activities and protect the rights of migrant workers.
Going forward, Ghana's fight against human trafficking, in all its forms, must adopt a multi-sectoral but coordinated approach as currently underway. This approach would adopt international best practices targeted at prevention, protection, and integration.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.