Ten players from the Eritrean football team are seeking asylum in Botswana, the latest in a series of defections by athletes from a country under investigation by the United Nations for human-rights violations.
The Eritrean national team was in Botswana to play a World Cup qualifying match. The players refused to board their plane home on Wednesday and were detained by police, Dick Bayford, who has been hired by the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) to represent the players, told Reuters.
“I have been engaged by the movement to assist in keeping the football players in the country after they received reports that there was an attempt to forcibly remove the players from Botswana,” he said.
Similar mass defections by Eritrean soccer players occurred in Kenya in 2009, Tanzania in 2011 and Uganda in 2012. They were fleeing a country where slavery-like practices are routine and torture widespread, the United Nations said after a year-long investigation.