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Lying their way to political asylum in Brazil


News of the 200 Ghanaians who requested political asylum in Brazil as the Football World Cup drew to a close may have been pushed off the radar screen, but it is worth revisiting the story if only to expose the falsehoods that underpinned the absurd request of these unscrupulous asylum seekers.

Their well-rehearsed, brazen and elaborately woven deceit was one for the ages; they did not only pull wool over the eyes of Ghanaian authorities who sponsored their trip, they also bamboozled naïve and unsuspecting Brazilian immigration officials into granting them legal residence.

As would be expected, this act promptly made them villains and deservedly earned them the scorn and contempt of their country men and women. The idea was to fly them to Brazil to cheer the Black Stars. But the recipients of this government largess, unbeknownst to the Ghanaian authorities, had hatched a detailed plan to make Brazil their new home.

Once in Brazil, they would, at the appropriate time, seekpolitical asylum by concocting a tall tale. Ghana, they told Brazilian officials, was in the throes of a religious conflict and that they had been victims of the ensuing violence.

I don’t question the right of Ghanaians to seek asylum anywhere in the world. Their right to do so is protected by international law. Currently, there are millions of asylum seekers in the world. Foreign policy magazine estimates the refugee population to be above 50 million, a staggering number when you consider the fact most of them are fleeing conflicts and political persecution.

But unlike the 200 Ghanaians, most of the world’s asylum seekers battle unimaginable obstacles before reaching their final destination—stormy seas, large tracts of harsh desert, callous human traffickers, hunger and skeptical immigration officials.

Claims of religious strife in Ghana as the basis for asylumare outrageous and smacked of naked opportunism. Quite naturally, the claimsbrought howls of laughter from people who know Ghana to be an oasis of peace and tranquility in a region still recoiling from years of war and mayhem.

Like most Ghanaians, I was angry at the temerity of the asylum seekers. Why denigrate your country with such an outrageous falsehood? Ghana is not trapped in any conflict, religious or political. Our nation has never experienced civil strife and even with the hyperventilated political posturing we see from politicians of all stripes, the prospects of civil upheaval are remote at best.
While our neighbors, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Liberia convulsed in violence and Nigeria is being tormented by a violent terrorist group, Bokom Haram, Ghana has remained unscarred. Granted, there were periods in our recent past when things could have surely veered out of hand — the Rawlings era immediately comes to mind — but Ghanaians set aside their political and ethnic interests for the national good.

The whole Brazilian faux pas reveals the lengths to which some Ghanaians would go to escape the hard economic times back at home; they will scheme, lie and literally sell their country to the highest bidder so long as it serves their narrow interest of economic self-preservation. These are economic refugees, pure and simple. Disclosing this truth to Brazilian officials, however, would have doomed their chances.So they lied.

But they have lied their way into a situation that isn’t all blissful. Economic and social realities will soon hit them in the face like a sledge-hammer. Their new environment throbs with racism. They must therefore fortify themselves for the deluge of racism that is certain to greet them. They should ask other Africans resident in Brazil, especially Angolans and Mozambicans. They have awful tales of racism to tell anyone who would listen.

Despite outward appearances of racial harmony, Brazil still suffers from this hobbling cancer. Whites are the top of the social pyramid while dark-skinned people are at the bottom, working as maids, doormen, street cleaners, and garbage collectors. The income gap between white and black Brazilians is still wide even as the government strives to close the gap and there are very few blacks in Brazil’s elite universities. The 200 Ghanaians have made their bed and they have to lie in it.

I certainly don’t begrudge the new surroundings of my country men and women. I just wish they had been more candid about their request without maligning our country.


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