Eritrea football internationals who opted to remain in Uganda after the 2019 Cecafa Under-20 Challenge Cup to seek asylum are living in fear of imminent involuntary repatriation.
The seven players have been in hiding since reports of their disappearance were documented by Kawowo Sports’ Ismael Kiyonga three days to Christmas last year.
According to The Guardian, they fear being “captured and sent home ‘as traitors’ if they are not granted asylum”.
Robel Kidane, Yosief Mebrahtu, Filmon Semere, Abel Ogbay, Ismail Jahar, Isias Abraham and Eyob Girmay are the players who are currently stranded after their asylum application process got further complicated due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Kimberley Motley, the American attorney who is following their case, told The Guardian; the process has been slow because countries aren’t really accepting refugees.
“They have been interviewed in order to see if they qualify – which they do,” she said.
“It is up to a country to invite them, but the Covid-19 pandemic has complicated things. Countries aren’t really accepting refugees now.”
This isn’t the first time Eritrean footballers are seeking refuge away from home.
In 2015, ten sought asylum in Botswana after a World Cup qualifying match and six years before, the entire national refused to return home after the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Kenya.
Over fifteen players also disappeared in Kampala during the 2012 Cecafa tournament and were granted asylum by the Government of Uganda a year later.