Eritrean officials have admitted the mysterious disappearance of the country’s national soccer team after participating in the just concluded regional Cecafa Cup tournament in Nairobi, Kenya.The plane booked for the team returned to Eritrea with only the coach. The 12 players were last seen on Sunday after the finals. Their whereabouts is still a mystery. Kenya’s police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe has said that the players hiding in the country have no valid visa documents to be in Kenya and could be treated as criminals.
Cecafa Cup head Nicolas Musonye told Newstime Africa that this was not the first time the Eritrean players have refused to return home. In 2006-7 in Tanzania, the same incident occurred. Two years ago the Eritrean government issued a new policy that all travelling athletes must deposit about $6,000 before leaving the country, a kind of insurance policy that they would return.Allegedly, the dire situations in their home could have made them remain behind. There is no media and religion freedom in Eritrea. Top government officials and police in Kenya have not received any asylum request from them.United Nations High Commission of Refugees recommends countries should not deport any Eritrean, because of the almost guaranteed mistreatment upon the refugees return.
However, government official in Eritrea have pledged to welcome the national team members although they have betrayed their country. The Eritrean team lost in the Cecafa Cup quarter-finals to the champions Uganda.
The Eritrean team has resurfaced after nearly 1 week in hiding. UNHCR has granted the team asylum in Kenya for 3 months. The team produced sworn affidavit they took in Asmara before flying to Kenya. They had vowed never to return. Theories have it that the team could have been hiding in Eastleigh Estate in Nairobi or at an Eritrean restaurant in Hurligham superb. Eastleigh Estate harbors thousands of Somalis, Ethiopians and Sudanese asylum seekers and refugees. Fundamental freedoms are not granted and one stands a life-time jail if one questions the regime. The team’s whereabouts is not known but UNHCR says the matter is in their own hands.
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