Eritrean Football Players Seek Asylum in Tanzania

Posted July 12th, 2011 at 12:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Thirteen Eritrean football players are seeking asylum in Tanzania, where their team was taking part in a regional tournament.

A spokesman for Tanzania's home affairs ministry has confirmed earlier reports that the players did not turn up at a Dar es Salaam airport Saturday, after their team was eliminated in the semi-final of the CECAFA club championship.

Ministry spokesman Isaac Nantanga says the players, from Eritrea's Red Sea club, have asked for asylum and are being interviewed by Tanzanian officials. He says officials are trying to determine if there are grounds for asylum.

This is not the first time Eritrean footballers have tried to defect while outside the country. In 2009, the entire national team defected after a tournament in Kenya.

Human rights groups accuse the Eritrean government of being one of the most repressive in Africa.

In its most recent report on Eritrea, Human Rights Watch said arbitrary arrests, torture, and forced labor are rampant in the East African country. It said many Eritreans conclude they can avoid oppression only by fleeing the country.