In June 2017, the government placed a temporary ban on recruitment of workers to the Gulf States, citing a hike in reported cases of abuse faced by migrant workers.
The Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffour Awuah, in announcing the ban also placed a freeze on issuance of recruitment licenses as part of measures to curb the abuses.
At the time, the reported cases were coming mainly from countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
According to the government, the abuse of Ghanaian citizens in the Gulf States was becoming a national security challenge which led to calls by several human rights activists on the government to ban Visa-20, a visa issued solely to those seeking to travel to the Gulf as house helps.
Perhaps, what might have pushed the government to act at the time were the concerns shown by many Ghanaians who were outraged about the harrowing reports from the Gulf States involving mostly women who were recruited to do domestic work.
In fact, Ghana’s former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, had earlier called on the government in 2015, to ban the Visa-20 after he visited Kuwait where he met girls who had been taken to the Gulf by recruitment agencies to do menial jobs but ended up facing abuses.
Again, the Ghana Immigration Service said in a report in 2015 that over 2,000 young Ghanaian women were stranded in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon only after five months of reaching those countries through fake recruitment agencies that promised them lucrative jobs.
The report said the women were mostly subjected to sexual molestation and inhumane treatment and they could not afford to return to Ghana.
It is almost three years now since the ban was placed on migration to the Gulf State and government has not yet given any indication as to whether the ban would be lifted or not.
However, the Centre for Migration Studies (CMS) of the University of Ghana, is urging the government to lift the ban on recruitment of labour to the Gulf States.
Their reason is that, the ban has not stopped the trips or maltreatment of migrants.
According to the Director of the Centre, Professor Joseph Teye, rather, he advised that the government should seek bilateral labour protection agreements with the popular destination countries to ensure the safety of migrants and help harness the benefits of migration.
The Ghanaian Times is not only shocked but surprised at the revelation that in spite of the ban, Ghanaians continue to make trips to those countries and maltreatments persist.
If we were to believe the exposure by the Legon Centre, then it would be safe to conclude that, the ban has not been effective as a result of which some unscrupulous individuals and groups were exploiting the situation for their parochial interest.
We wish to appeal to the government to as a matter of urgency take another look at the ban with the view of strengthening and plugging the loophole to make it effective.
More importantly, we add our voice to the call for the country to ratify the ILO treaty on domestic workers, and reform the labour and immigration laws to ensure that our domestic workers in the Gulf States have the same rights and protections as other workers in those countries.