Offside!

Israel-loving Ghana World Cup star’s brother awaits asylum ruling in jail.

By RON FRIEDMAN
June 25, 2010 02:33
2 minute read.
Offside!

jail prison cell 88. (photo credit: )

While Ghanaian soccer player John Paintsil runs, kicks and slides on the world’s largest sports stage, his brother Mark sits in an Israeli jail cell waiting for his asylum claim to be heard by the authorities.

Four years ago, during the World Cup hosted by Germany, Israelis experienced a rare moment of football-related pride when they saw the Israeli flag being waved by a player following a victory. The player was Ghanaian national team member John Paintsil, who had previously appeared for Maccabi and Hapoel Tel Aviv and was given the flag by Israeli fans attending the game.

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It was that incident, according to Mark Paintsil, that triggered his asylum request.

In an interview to Ynet this week, the younger Paintsil said that his brother’s action had incurred the wrath of people in Ghana who saw the waving of a foreign flag as an unpatriotic act. He said that as a result, Paintsil’s family had become the target of violent attacks and had been forced to flee the country. Paintsil said the situation was so grave that his family was unable to even visit Ghana, out of fear they would be harmed.

After being traded to the English football club Fulham, John Paintsil moved to London, where he now lives along with his parents and other siblings. Despite the threats to his family, John Paintsil was called up for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and participated in Ghana’s successful qualification for the final 16 round.

Mark Paintsil, eager to follow in his brother’s footsteps, arrived in Israel two years ago, aiming to play for one of the local teams. However, his plans were dashed when he was informed by the immigration authorities that in order to stay and play he would have to return to Ghana and replace his tourist visa with a work visa sponsored by the team. According to Paintsil, return to Ghana was out of the question because of concern for his welfare. After his tourist visa expired, he stayed on as an illegal alien, and a month ago was arrested by the Oz foreign workers unit.

Last week, during a routine visit to Givon prison, Yarden, a volunteer for the Migrant Workers Hotline, met with Paintsil and heard about his asylum claim.

“Mark told us that he was arrested for missing his asylum hearing. He said that he had been injured, and was unable to attend his hearing, but that he could not be sent back to Ghana because of the threats that awaited him there,” said the Migrant Workers Hotline Spokeswoman.

“We urge the Israeli authorities to allow him to complete asylum request proceedings from outside of the prison walls.”

Population, Immigration and Borders Authority spokeswoman Sabin Hadad said that Paintsil only applied for asylum after he was arrested, and that the reason for his arrest was that he overstayed his tourist visa in violation of the law.

“Paintsil was arrested based on the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, and only after his arrest he appealed for political asylum,” said Hadad. “His case is currently under review.”


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