Hundreds, if not thousands, of Ghanaians traveled to Brazil to support their World Cup team. Usually, Ghana is among the better teams in the field but this time around the national team fell short of expectations and was forced out in the first round. Fans were supposed to pack their bags and go home dejected, right? Apparently at least two hundred Ghanaians are now trying to claim asylum in Brazil, apparently in an effort to flee “religious violence” at home.
Ghanaian government denies asylum seekers’ claims
The Ghanaian government has responded that it is “scandalized” by the move by the asylum seekers and has denied their claims. A government official went as far as to state that there is no religious violence in the country and Ghana is generally seen as one of West Africa’s more stable and economically successful countries. It should be noted, however, that West Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world.
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It is believed that at least some of the asylum seekers were part of the 650 member delegate party sent by Ghana to support the national team. Local authorities in Brazil believe that as many as a thousand more Ghanaians will seek asylum status now that the World Cup is over.
Ghana Religious Diverse but Stable
About 70 percent of Ghanaians are Christian while 18 percent are Muslim. Similar ethnic mixes have led to instability in neighboring countries, such as Nigeria. Ghana, however, has been a relatively stable country throughout most of its history, largely missing the civil wars and infighting that has previously devastated places like Sierra Leone.
Ghana’s economy grew by nearly 8 percent in 2013, far out pacing Brazil’s 2.9% growth rate during the same time span. Still, Brazil is generally seen as an emerging power and the country has already achieved middle income status while Ghana lags far behind.
The asylum seekers filed their claims in Caxias do Sul, a wealthy city in southern Brazil. The area is among the richest in Brazil and has become a haven for foreign workers looking to find steady jobs. As South America’s largest economy, Brazil has become a magnet for people seeking employment opportunities.
Interestingly, Caxias do Sul is more than a thousand miles away from Natal and Brasilia, the two venues where the Ghanaian team played. The asylum seekers thus went far out of their way to file their claims. Brazil allows people seeking asylum status to work legally while they are applying for full protection.
So far, it appears that many of the potential refugees are receiving assistance local church parishes.