Ghanaians residing in Italy are looking forward to the implementation of the Representation of the People’s Amendment Law (ROPAL), Act 699 to enable them to exercise their franchise.
In Italy, there are about 44,000 registered Ghanaians who are doing various kinds of jobs throughout the country.
The Ghanaian Ambassador to Italy, Madam Paulina Patience Abayage in an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic said she was confronted with the question as to when the ROPAL would be implemented during her familiarisation visit to the various Ghanaian communities in that country.
High Court directive
The High Court in Accra, Human Rights Division, presided over by Mr Justice Anthony K. Yeboah, in December 2017, ordered the Electoral Commission (EC) to implement within 12 months, the ROPAL, 2006 (Act 699).
Mr Justice Yeboah said the EC had for the last 10 years, breached the rights of Ghanaians living abroad by failing to give them the opportunity to vote.
Ghanaian politics in Italy
“Everywhere I have gone to, they have been asking: So when are you bringing us ROPAL? You have no idea how much they are looking forward to vote,” Madam Abayage told the Daily Graphic.
She said there were lots of active Ghanaian politicking in Italy, adding that the various political parties in Ghana had support base in that country.
Madam Abayage noted, for instance, that just as campaigns were heating up in Ghana for the election of the party executives of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the Ghanaians in Italy were also campaigning vigorously to elect their regional executives and on March 24, would elect the Italian branch executives of the party.
She said Ghanaians in Italy had kept abreast of developments in Ghana, adding, “they go on radio stations here to do politics as if they are in Ghana.”
Madam Abayage said she was excited that steps were being taken, especially with the ruling of the Supreme Court directing the EC to implement the ROPAL and was hopeful that Ghanaians in the diaspora would have the opportunity to exercise their civic responsibility in the next general elections in 2020.
She stated that it would come as welcome news to the over 44,000 eligible Ghanaians domiciled in Italy, explaining that even though officially the registered figure was 44,000, those not registered with the embassy were about the same number.
Madam Abayage praised Ghanaians in Italy for their high level of discipline and comportment, saying that wherever she went upon assuming office, the Italian authorities were very pleased with the conduct of Ghanaians in the country.
“Everywhere we have gone, the authorities have said very kind words about the Ghanaians and I have not had any strong adverse report about any Ghanaian,” she said.
She also commended them for investing in their children, adding that most of them were educating their children, which she said was encouraging.
Madam Abayage said there was an association of Ghanaians in Italy known as the Ghana National Association and also ethnic groupings.
And that most of the Ghanaians in Italy were found in the regions where there were industries and farms, especially in the southern and northern parts of that country.
No job in Italy
She, however, stated that many of the Ghanaians in Italy were going through tough times because they were not working because “generally there are no job opportunities and so, finding job in Italy is not easy.”
Madam Abayage said even when there was a job vacancy in Italy the first requirement was for the person to be able to speak the Italian language.
She, therefore, advised the youth struggling to travel to Europe, especially Italy, to reconsider their decision, “because the truth is that it is simply not easy over here,” adding that a lot of Ghanaians were homeless.”
Madam Abayage further advised that instead of paying those large sums of money to the traffickers also known as “connection” men to facilitate their travelling, they should rather use that money to begin some business in Ghana, “because, trust me, it is difficult in Italy.”