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Ghana: Thousands of railway dwellers at risk of eviction

Amnesty International has urged the Ghanaian authorities to halt the eviction of thousands of people living next to railway lines in the capital, Accra amid new fears that they are facing imminent forced eviction.

Known as the Railway Dwellers, the men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights who live and trade in kiosks and small structures built along the railway lines face homelessness and destitution if they are forcibly evicted from their homes. Some residents have lived alongside the railway lines in Accra for more than 17 years.

The evictions are part of nationwide plans to redevelop Ghana's railway network following the signing of a US$6 billion contract with a Chinese company for the construction and expansion of railway infrastructure. It also forms part of the "Better Ghana Agenda" which aims to improve living standards across the country.

On 21 January 2011, officials from the Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) and Railway Development Authority visited communities along Accra's railway lines. They took measurements of the distance between structures and the little-used railway lines and issued fresh eviction notices to those people living within 160 metres of the tracks.

The eviction notices did not inform people of the date that they would be evicted. However, on 21 January, the Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) - the local governing body - said that all structures would be demolished in time for construction work to begin on the railways lines in February. Four days later, buildings at risk of demolition were painted with the words "Remove by January 25 2011 by AMA".

Amnesty International Ghana’s Director Lawrence Amesu, said:

“These people have been threatened with eviction before. It was hoped that the authorities had put a stop to these plans.

“Many of the people living in these communities simply have nowhere else to go. The authorities are at risk of making their own people homeless and destitute if they go ahead with these plans.”

No legal protections or other safeguards – such as consultation with the affected residents – are in place to prevent forced evictions. They have not provided any alternative housing to residents, and have no plans to do so after the evictions. These are all requirements under international law.

Lawrence Amesu continued:

"Amnesty understands the need for development in Ghana, including the redevelopment of the railway infrastructure. However, development should never come at the cost of human rights.

"The Ghanaian 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, and until there is a plan to provide adequate alternative housing to those affected.

International legal prohibition on forced eviction applies in all instances – including people living in informal settlements and for those with no legal tenure.

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