Ten Eritrean footballers who refused to return home after a World Cup qualifying match against Botswana’s team – the Zebras – earlier this month have been granted asylum.
The Pretoria-based Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) on Thursday announced that Botswana’s government had granted them asylum.
The Eritreans refused to return home with the rest of the team on October 13 and went on to claim asylum.
Botswana’s Defence Minister made a pronouncement that the Eritrean players would be deported back home.
EMDHR then engaged a team of attorneys to launch an urgent application to block the move. The Botswana High Court in Lobatse issued an order by consent on October 16 saying “government shall not remove (the footballers) from the jurisdiction of Botswana”.
EMDHR official Eyasu Hatemarian said: “We are grateful to the Botswana government and this decision shows its rule of law and due process are sound.”
The players have been resident at an illegal immigrant detention centre near Francistown, Botswana’s second largest city.
This is not the first time Eritrean footballers on national duty abroad have refused to return home.
In 2009, some Eritrean soccer players refused to leave Kenya. In 2011 and 2012 other groups of players refused to leave Tanzania and Uganda respectively.
The United Nations has previously said slavery-like practices are rife in Eritrea. The UN also found that Eritrea subjects its citizens to indefinite national service and has killed people who have attempted to flee the country.
SOURCE: AFRICA REVIEW