Amnesty International has urged the Ghanaian authorities to halt the imminent eviction of thousands of people living next to railway lines in the capital, Accra.
Known as the Railway Dwellers, the men, women and children who live and work next to the lines in the Agbogbloshie area of Accra face homelessness after local authorities gave them two weeks to leave the area on 1 December.
“The government of Ghana has not provided alternative accommodation for the railway dwellers, and nothing suggests that they have plans to do so after completing the evictions. The Ghanaian authorities must not evict people and leave them homeless and destitute.” said Tawanda Hondora, Africa Program Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“The authorities must not evict the railway dwellers until there are plans in place to provide them with alternative accommodation, or with compensation. The authorities must not take measures that deepen poverty, or that make vulnerable people - the young, frail, the elderly – homeless and exposed to worse human rights violations.”
“The Ghanaian government cannot act in total disregard of their international human rights obligations.”
On 26 November 2010, the Government of Ghana signed a US$6 billion contract with a Chinese company for the construction and expansion of railway infrastructure in Ghana.
This “revamping” of the railways, according to the government requires the demolition of the “illegal structures” that have been constructed within 50 feet of the railway, and the removal of the “squatters” that inhabit them.
However, the international legal prohibition on forced eviction applies to all settlements, regardless of whether people have legal tenure of the land. Previously, notice of demolition for structures along the railway of 15 October 2009 and 11 November 2010, but these demolitions were never carried out and residents are still living there.
On 1 December, however, local authorities sent vans with megaphones to the informal settlement, and ordered residents to vacate the area in two weeks.
The Accra Metropolitan Authority stated on their website on 7 December that the structures along the railway lines would be demolished to allow for the redevelopment of the railway system.
“The Ghanian authorities must adopt a moratorium on all evictions until safeguards have been put in place to ensure that they are carried out in line with international human rights standards,” said Tawanda Hondora.
Amnesty International’s work on forced evictions is part of its Demand Dignity campaign, which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. The campaign mobilises people all over the world to demand that governments, corporations and others who have power listen to the voices of those living in poverty and recognise and protect their rights. For more information visit http://demanddignity.amnesty.org/campaigns-en/