Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Eritrea national football team gets refugee status in Uganda

The government of Uganda has finally granted refugee status to the Eritrean national football team members who vanished in Kampala last December during the 2012 Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup.

The Commissioner for Refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister, Apollo David Kazungu confirmed to on Monday that the Refugee Eligibility Committee had found the group’s claims valid and granted them refugee status.
The Eritrean team had been eliminated in the tournament in the early stages after drawing with Zanzibar 0-0, losing 3-2 to Malawi and being beaten 2-0 by Rwanda in their last match on Saturday. Instead of board the next plane out of Uganda, players and officials left their Sky Hotel reportedly for shopping, only for the 17 to vanish and only three returned to Asmara.

Kazungu explained that two of the players who had applied for asylum returned home, but the rest refused for fear of being conscripted into military training.

He said although the Eritreans players have been granted asylum, they have not been relocated to the resettlement camp, because they prefer to stay around Kampala. Kazungu explains that its government’s policy not to force any refugee into the settlement camps, adding that it is okay for the Eritreans to stay in an urban setting like Kampala if they can afford.

After the 2010 Cecafa tournament in Tanzania, 13 players from Eritrea's team also disappeared and defected. Several of those players have since reappeared in Houston, Texas under a refugee resettlement program in the United States.