Tanzania rejects asylum request by Eritrean footballers
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - Tanzanian authorities have turned down a request for asylum by 13 Eritrean football players on grounds that they did not qualify for refugee status. In a statement late Wednesday, the
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – Tanzanian authorities have turned down a request for asylum by 13 Eritrean football players on grounds that they did not qualify for refugee status. In a statement late Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the youths who were members of Eritrea’s Red Sea Football Club failed to prove that they would be tortured or prosecuted on return to their Horn of Africa country.
The players did not show up for a flight that was to take them 9 July 2011 to Asmara, after their club was eliminated from this year’s Championship of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) Kagame Cup, held in Dar es Salaam in June/July.
They later showed up at the Home Affairs Ministry asking for asylum.
According to the foreign ministry’s spokesperson, Isaac Nantanga, the National Refugees Committee, rejected the Eritreans’ applications after assessing reasons given by each person to seek asylum.
“None of the applications met the criteria for refugee status,” Nantanga said in the statement, adding that it was on that basis that the refugees committee presented its recommendation to Home Affairs Minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha. The minister then ruled out their applications.
Nantanga said, however, that the UN Refugee Agency could seek permission from the Tanzanian government to keep the Eritreans under its protection while arrangement was being made to transfer them to a third country.
In similar incidents, four players of the same football club defected after playing an African Champions League match in Kenya in 2006 and the following year six players of the Eritrean national football team requested asylum in Angola.
Again in 2009, a dozen members of the national football team went missing during a tournament in Nairobi.
After eight months of hiding in a refugee camp in Kenya, under the protection of UNHCR, the Eritreans were granted asylum in Australia, where they have resumed their football career.