A Ghanaian’s Black Friday On the Tip of Africa

Football "Ghana's Fairytale Ends…" was how the Reuters dispatch from Accra described the letdown ("the silence of the vuvuzelas") of Ghana's defeat last night at the hands of (or is it at the feet of?) Uruguay.  The Moroccan waiters at the Tangier restaurant were rooting for their fellow Africans, just like the Algerians were last week when Ghana eliminated the U.S. team.

But there was at least one Ghanaian in Tangier whose worries extended beyond his team's letdown.

Yesterday I was at one of many stops in the process of getting registered here as a resident, and it took me to the central police station's Office for Foreigners.  At some point, sitting on a bench, I realized that the man sitting next to me was a fellow Anglophone.  He was a Ghanaian, and he wasn't there to register to stay in Morocco.

It took me a few seconds to realize that he was in handcuffs, and through misty eyes, he told me that he had lost his passport, and here he was, a prisoner instead of getting assistance.  Well, it's hard to say if he was legit or not: thousands of sub-Saharan Africans trek across the desert to try their luck with the last 14 kilometers, the distance that separates this tip of Africa from the Promised Land – Spain and the European Union beyond.  Passports are often discarded to avoid identification, so that they can try and claim special hardship as asylum seekers from some war-torn country.  Spanish director Gerardo Olivares covered the subject with great humanity in his film 14 Kilómetros.

I'll never know what became of my bench mate.  In the film, Africans risk life, limb, and life's savings crisscrossing the closed Algerian-Moroccan land border, not to speak of the risks of Sahara and Mediterranean, both of which can and do end the journey for many in an anonymous grave, far from home.  With luck, the Ghanaian will simply be deported, to try his luck again.  Dedicated economic migrants rarely give up.

Gerald Loftus

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