Accra: Some 200 Ghanaians who travelled to Brazil to watch the football World Cup and have applied to stay permanently, citing religious violence at home, have no legitimate claim to asylum, Ghana said Friday.
The make-up of the group, including their religion and home region is not yet clear, but they have reportedly told Brazilian authorities that inter-religious violence between rival Muslim groups has made it unsafe to return to Ghana.
"The basis for the alleged request for the asylum is completely untrue," Deputy Information Minister Felix Kwakye Ofosu told Ghana's independent Citi FM radio station.
"You and I know that there is no known religious conflict raging in this country at the moment," he added.
The group has reportedly found shelter in a Catholic church in the southern city of Caxias do Sul.
Ghana has been one of the most stable countries in west Africa for more than two decades and is not known to have any significant religious violence.
Ofusu said Ghanaian diplomats in Brazil have been instructed to work with local authorities to investigate the situation but warned it would be "surprising and unfortunate" should anyone conclude that the asylum claim has merit.
Some, and possibly all, members of the group travelled to Brazil as part of the government delegation to the World Cup, officials said.
The refugee request is the latest off-the pitch scandal surrounding Ghana's disastrous 2014 World Cup.
Players demanded that more than $3 million in bonuses be flown to them in Brazil, an embarrassingly public expenditure for Ghana's cash-strapped government.
The Ghana Football Association kicked key players midfielder Sulley Muntari and striker Kevin-Prince Boateng out of the squad, before their final match.
The GFA alleged Muntari assaulted a staff member and Boateng insulted coach Kwesi Appiah.
The team's preparations were also tainted by allegations that a Ghana Football Association official had agreed for the national team to play in a game organised by match-fixers. (Also read: Ghana remove Sports Minister)
The squad, which made the quarterfinals in 2010, finished at the bottom of their group.