Ghanaian football fans request asylum in Brazil

Ghanaian fans during Portugal match in Brasilia Hundreds of Ghanaian football fans travelled to Brazil to follow their team in the World Cup

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Brazilian federal police say that some 200 Ghanaians have requested asylum after entering the country on tourist visas to watch the World Cup.

The Ghanaians say they are Muslims fleeing inter-religious conflicts in their home country.

They have filed their applications in the southern city of Caxias do Sul, in one of Brazil's most prosperous areas.

The BBC's Sammy Darko in Ghana's capital, Accra, says the country has no recorded religious conflict.

Ghana is seen as one of the most peaceful and prosperous countries in West Africa.

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

Start Quote

We have hundreds of Syrian refugees in the same situation”

End Quote Joao Guilherme Granja Justice Ministry official
Part of official delegation

"This region - Serra Gaucha - is known as an area of full employment. It has became a magnet for foreign workers," federal police chief Noerci da Silva Melo said in Caxias do Sul.

"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 told the news agency Agencia Brasil.

Police said another 1,000 Ghanaians are expected to request refugee status once the tournament is over.

However, Ghana's Sports Minister Mahama Ayariga told the BBC he doubted this.

Those who have requested asylum are believed to be part of the official group of 650 fans sent to Brazil to support the national team.

Officials have previously said that the delegation mostly comprised supporters of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Ghanaian fans during Portugal match in Brasilia Ghana went home without a win and failed to qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup

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.

The team, known as the Black Stars, lost two matches - to the United States and Portugal - but drew with World Cup finalists Germany. They failed to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.

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.

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