Tanzania rejects Eritrean footballers’ asylum bid

BBC , 13 October 2011

Tanzania has rejected an asylum request by 13 young Eritrean footballers who refused to return home after a regional tournament in July.

The footballers had failed to prove that their lives would be in danger in Eritrea, a government spokesman said.

A UN official said an appeal would be made to other countries to give refuge to the former Red Sea FC players.

Young Eritreans often try to escape poverty, a repressive government and national military service.

Tanzania’s home affairs ministry spokesman Isaac Nantanga told the BBC the players seemed to have applied for asylum because they wanted “greener pastures” – not because of a lack of security in Eritrea.


The footballers – aged between 18 and 23 – are in the custody of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

UNHCR Tanzania representative Oauseyi Bajulaiye told the BBC the UNHCR was still in discussions with the Tanzanian authorities about their future.

He said the UNHCR would try to find a “safe country” that would give the footballers “resettlement” status, he said.

In July, the 13 Red Sea FC players failed to board a flight to Eritrea after being knocked out of the Cecafa Championship during the semi-final stages.

Instead, they went to the UNHCR offices to seek protection.

It was reportedly the fourth time that Eritrean footballers had absconded while on tour.

Eritrea is a one-party state, ruled by President Isaias Afewerki.

Human rights activists say government critics are routinely arrested and tortured.

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