Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, Andrew Barnes, has said he does not know the exact number of so-called Ghanaian journalists who were recently deported from Down Under, under the guise of being there to cover the ongoing Commonwealth Games.
Mr Barnes also says the Australian High Commission, even if it knew the exact number of the deportees, will not disclose that information.
The deportees were busted by the Australian Border Force (ABF) for posing as journalists in order to gain entry into the country.
Their inability to answer basic sports questions posed by Australian officials gave them away. Most of them also did not have basic journalistic tools.
The Sports Ministry and the National Sports Authority (NSA) have been accused of facilitating the acquisition of visas for them, as the travel documents presented by the deportees were genuine.
Some of the affected people said they were charged between GHS15,000 and GHS22,000 in order to help them secure visas to Australia.
Commenting on the development, Mr Barnes told World Affairs host Dr Etse Sikanku on Class91.3FM on Friday, 6 April that the number being reported in the Ghanaian and international media is not accurate.
“The information that I have is that several dozen travellers from a variety of countries including Ghana, so, several dozens and not just Ghana but quite a number of countries who attempted to travel to Australia posing as journalists or athletes or officials had their visas cancelled. So, the number 50 is not accurate for Ghana”.
Asked by the host if he could state the number of Ghanaians affected, he answered in the negative, adding that it will not even be made public if he knew.
“No, I don’t know that number and Australia, we won’t be releasing the number either,” he emphasised.
He indicated that the action by the deportees constitutes a serious offence with serious consequences for such a “scam” because when the “dishonesty” of the individuals are discovered, “they will have a red flag against their names and they will never be able to travel to Australia again, and quite likely, through information sharing agreements that Australia has with other countries it may be difficult to get visas for other countries as well”.
The High Commissioner was of the view that Ghana is peaceful with numerous opportunities and Ghanaians should “never think they will have better lives in Australia but enjoy the opportunities that Ghana has to offer to Ghanaians”.
He said Australia is very grateful for the contributions of legitimate migrants, adding that the “Ghanaian diaspora in Australian is a very successful diaspora and they also contribute a lot to Ghana through their repatriation of money and many of them come back for business and work here (in Ghana) with skills and other things that they have acquired”.
He used the opportunity to congratulate the Ghanaian sports contingent and wished them success in the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.