Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, has on behalf of the Government, received a donation of $428,650 from Mr Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, Member of Parliament for Assin Central, to support the evacuation of more than 700 stranded Ghanaians in Lebanon.
Mr Agyapong contributed $200,000 himself, while he mobilised the rest through an appeal he launched for other Ghanaians to support.
The support will help cover the evacuation of the fourth and fifth batches scheduled for August 11 and 13, respectively.
“The generosity of Mr Agyapong is public knowledge and the donation today is only a testimony of his kind heart, and we expect this donation to fund the evacuation of 727 Ghanaians from Lebanon,” Madam Ayorkor Botchwey stated on Wednesday, in Accra, when she received the cheque for the donation from Mr Agyapong.
She said on the arrival on the evacuees on both days the Government would bear the cost of quarantine, just as it had done for more than 3,000 of their compatriots who had been evacuated from various parts of the world.
The countries include China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Qatar.
“On behalf of the Government of Ghana, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and, indeed, all Ghanaians and the families who will be benefiting from this generous offer, I wish to thank you, my colleague and brother, Mr Agyapong and all those who through your efforts have contributed to this noble cause,” she said.
“By this act, you have proven to be a responsive statesman and patriot, and Ghanaians are grateful.”
Madam Botchwey said in a difficult time when the world was grappling with how to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on lives and economies, it was heart-warming to witness these acts of generosity, patriotism and solidarity from fellow Ghanaians.
She said when the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in November 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, nothing could have prepared the world for the devastation it would unleash on human lives and world economies months down the line.
She noted that since then, the world had been at the mercy of this unseen, yet destructive virus.
“As a desperate measure to prevent the deadly virus from spreading within national borders, States locked-down and also imposed travel bans and other restrictions, including border closures,” she said.
“Unfortunately, these measures left many travellers, including a number of Ghanaian nationals, stranded in foreign countries and unsure of when they will return home to their families.”
She intimated that it also brought to the fore the unacceptable dire conditions some Ghanaians abroad, especially those in the Middle East, were living under as a result of the pandemic.
Madam Botchwey said in view of the growing number of stranded Ghanaians abroad per the data gathered by the Ministry and its Diplomatic Missions abroad, the Government took the bold decision to begin the process of evacuating them home.
She said to ensure a well-coordinated evacuation exercise, Government decided to undertake the exercise in phases.
The Minister said this decision was informed by financial and logistical considerations; namely, the capacity of their quarantine and isolation centres to hold large number of evacuees, and the human resource capacity of the COVID-19 Task Force, comprising personnel drawn from the various security agencies.
She said the Ministry, in collaboration with the Task Force, had since May 2020, completed 51 evacuations from across the globe, resulting in the safe return of 5,940 Ghanaians.
She said in the particular case of Lebanon, the Ministry, with its Mission in Cairo and the Honorary Consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, facilitated the first evacuation of 211 stranded Ghanaians on 19th June, 2020.
She said this was followed by the evacuation also from Lebanon of 144 Ghanaians on 28th July, and another 205 Ghanaians on 30th July, 2020.
“We can, therefore, say that so far, 560 Ghanaians have been evacuated from Lebanon, and over 1000 more are expected this month.”
She said for the groups, which had so far arrived, the Government of Ghana had borne the cost of their quarantine and other related costs.
“So much has been done by Government since the outbreak of COVID-19 to mitigate the adverse effects of the virus on Ghanaians, but I must say that we are not out of the woods yet,” she said.
“There is still a lot to be done, and it is for this reason that the Ministry welcomes the support of benevolent individuals such as the Member of Parliament for Assin Central, Mr Agyapong.”
The Minister said: “On the matter associated with our dear compatriots in Lebanon, I wish to reiterate our displeasure in the manner Ghanaian nationals in that country have been treated.”
She reiterated that the Government had in no uncertain terms registered its abhorrence to such inhumane treatment to the Government of Lebanon on the harassment and earlier reports of abuse to which Ghanaians had been subjected to by their Lebanese employers.
She, therefore, commended Mr Winfred Hammond, Ghana’s Ambassador accredited to Egypt and Lebanon, for his tireless efforts in bringing the evacuees home.
Mr Agyapong said the donation was to support the Foreign Ministry in its efforts to bring back home stranded Ghanaians.
“It is not everything that we expect the white man to save us or take care of for us. We need to prove that we are capable of managing our own affairs.”