Adelaide Abankwah

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Adelaide Abankwah
Born c. 1971
Other names Regina Norman Danson
Known for refugee claimant

Adelaide Abankwah (born circa 1971) was a pseudonym taken by Ghanaian Regina Norman Danson when she tried to immigrate to the U.S. as a refugee claiming to be fleeing female genital cutting and seeking political asylum.

"Adelaide Abankwah" appeared in the USA in 1997 from Ghana. She claimed that she had inherited the position of a female chief of her tribe after her mother had died. The position, however, demanded that she would be a virgin. She had fallen in love with a Christian and if she went back, the tribe would discover she was not a virgin any more and she would be forced to submit to genital mutilation. Thus she applied for political asylum on March 29, 1997.

The INS officials suspected that her passport had been forged or otherwise altered, had her detained and began proceedings to expel her. Abankwah was detained for over two years in the privately operated Queens Detention Facility in Jamaica, Queens, when her application for asylum was twice rejected, first by an immigration judge, and then in 1999 by the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Eventually the INS investigation determined that the "Abankwah" was an impostor. Her real name was Regina Norman Danson. She had adopted the name of another Ghanaian woman who was living in Maryland and whose passport had been stolen in Ghana.

Danson admitted that she had given a wrong name but that her story was still true. Further inquiries from Ghana showed that her mother, who had never been a tribal leader, was still alive. Immigration court also noted that Ghana had declared female circumcision illegal in 1994, and that it had never been widespread there.

The case came to the attention of feminist and human rights activists who began to lobby for her release. They included actresses Julia Roberts and Vanessa Redgrave and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in July 1999 and granted Danson asylum. INS continued to investigate and found "overwhelming evidence" of fraud. The justice department was still hesitant to pursue a fraud conviction because of possible public furor and bad publicity but indicted her in 2001. The real Abankwah cooperated with INS to have the case cleared.

The fraud trial began on January 14, 2002. Tribal Chief Nana Kwa Bonko testified that Danson was not in the tribe's royal succession and that they did not practice female circumcision.

According to GhanaWeb,[1] Danson was to be sentenced for fraud on March 23, 2003 "for up to 16 months in prison, after which she will be deported to Ghana."


  1. ^ "We Are Not Savages - Chief Nana Kwa Bonko V". Accra Mail. GhanaWeb. 19 January 2003. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 

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