‘Reject Asylum Seekers’

Typical Black Stars supporters in Brazil
THE GHANA government has asked its Brazilian counterpart to deport 193 Ghanaian soccer fans seeking asylum in that country as soon as their visas expire.

Government has begun working the diplomatic channels to get the football fans who have embarrassed the nation by seeking asylum in Brazil, sent home, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The fans who were flown by government to Brazil to support the Black Stars in the 2014 World Cup tournament there, have argued that they are Muslims fleeing inter-religious conflicts in Ghana.

The Brazilian government is reported to be considering their asylum application; but the Foreign Affairs Ministry, in a statement, said these individuals simply do not want to return to Ghana and must be deported.

Earlier, a statement issued by government and signed by Deputy Information Minister, Felix Kwakye Ofosu yesterday denied claims of a religious conflict in the country.

‘Government states for the record that the basis for this alleged request is completely false as no religious conflict is taking place in Ghana.

‘Ghana is one of the most stable and peaceful countries not just in the West African subregion but also on the African continent,’ the statement stressed.

Religious Card
It is believed that the Ghanaians in question only used the religious card to get the Brazilian government to give them refugee status in order to escape from the harsh economic conditions created by the Mahama Government which they supported and voted into power.

Ghana’s mission in Brazil has therefore been instructed by government to liaise with the Brazilian authorities to investigate the matter.

The supporters were part of an estimated 650 sent to Brazil on tourist visas to cheer the senior national soccer team, the Black Stars at the ongoing 2014 World Cup.

DAILY GUIDE learnt that over 6000 Ghanaians were issued with Brazilian visas for the tournament, mostly facilitated by government officials.

But their stay in the country was short-lived after the team crushed out of the ongoing competition with their travelling and accommodation botched with multiple controversies including issues of unpaid allowances.

With the exit of the Black Stars from the tournament, the fans, most of whom were believed to be unemployed, were therefore expected to pack bag and baggage and head back home to Ghana to the reality of fuel and water shortages, power outages and harsh economic conditions.

Government could not tell Ghanaians how many of them had returned to Ghana, thereby keeping the issue under wraps until the latest revelation by the Brazilian authorities.

Most of these asylum seekers were reported to have filed their applications in the southern city of Caxias do Sul, one of Brazil’s most prosperous areas.

The Brazilian authorities believe many of the Ghanaians are looking for the right to work legally in the country.

A report by the BBC quoted a Brazilian Justice Ministry official, Joao Guilherme Granja as having said ‘we have hundreds of Syrian refugees in the same situation.’ Federal Police Chief, Noerci da Silva Melo in Caxias do Sul also told the BBC ‘this region – Serra Gaucha – is known as an area of full employment. It has become a magnet for foreign workers.’

‘You go through the streets and you can see many Haitians and Senegalese selling pirate CDs and watches. The area is overcrowded now,’ Mr Melo was quoted by the Brazilian news agency, Agencia Brasil, as saying.

Sports Minister Mahama Ayariga and Deputy Education Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa have expressed doubt the asylum seekers could be Ghanaians.

Caxias do Sul is more than 1,600 km (1,000 miles) away from the venues where the Ghanaian team played – the north-eastern cities of Natal and Fortaleza and in the capital, Brasilia.

Brazilian laws
Brazilian legislation allows potential refugees to work legally in the country once they have filed for asylum.

The fact that the Ghanaians have entered the country on tourist visas should not be taken into consideration when considering whether to grant them asylum, a Justice Ministry official said.

‘Asylum cannot be requested at a Brazilian embassy. The asylum- seeker must be in the country to apply,’ said Joao Guilherme Granja.

‘We have hundreds of Syrian refugees in Brazil at the moment in the same situation.’

Most of the Ghanaian asylum seekers in Caxias do Sul have been given shelter by local Roman Catholic churches.

By Charles Takyi-Boadu

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