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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ghana to Reject Liberian Refugees

ACCRA -- Ghana has decided that Liberians fleeing from their country's civil war aboard a damaged freighter will not be allowed entry, Ghanaian and UN officials have announced.

"Only Ghanaians, UN officials, aid workers and foreign nationals seeking transit through Ghana will be allowed to disembark," the UN refugee agency's representative in Accra, Chrysantus Ache, told Ghana News Agency on Saturday.

Ghanaian Foreign Minister Obed Asamoah said earlier the freighter Bulk Challenge, which was forced back to sea by C™te d'Ivoire on Thursday after emergency repairs, would have to wait offshore while its passengers are screened.

But Asamoah's deputy, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said later Ghana was still discussing with the ECOMOG African peacekeeping force in Liberia to create conditions for the return of the Liberians.

"We are in close link with ECOMOG. They are doing everything possible to create a safe haven for the ship and its passengers," Chambas told the agency.

Undeterred by the week-long ordeal of the 4,000 refugees on the Nigerian freighter, more Liberians were scrambling to board any available boat to flee renewed fighting in Monrovia since April 6.

Aid workers estimated that up to 20,000 Liberians could be in boats at sea this weekend and made plans to survey the West African coast by plane to spot refugees in distress.

Hundreds of people on the Monrovia quay awaited the departure of an old Russian fishing boat heading for Ghana before peacekeepers closed the port after a food riot.

Chambas said the latest information showed the Bulk Challenge was advancing towards the port of Tema, near Accra.

Officials said they expected it to anchor there early Sunday.

"If it arrives in Ghana, it will stay offshore, and Ghanaian officials will go on board to screen the refugees," Asamoah told the Ghana News Agency.

"We don't want to take any more refugees. We have had enough. Especially we don't want people who are combatants."

C™te d'Ivoire, which already has provided refuge to an estimated 300,000 Liberian refugees, forced the vessel to leave the port of San Pedro on Thursday night, saying that half of the Liberians on board the ship were guerrillas.