Botswana has granted asylum to a group of 10 Eritrean soccer players who sought refuge after playing in a World Cup qualifying match early October, their lawyer said on Thursday.
The Eritreans refused to board their plane home on Oct. 13 after playing the match against Botswana. Reuters reported. They then claimed asylum, becoming the latest in a series of defections by athletes from a country under investigation by the United Nations for human rights violations.
Eyasu Hatemarian of the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Pretoria thanked Botswana government for their decision and praised their rule of law and due process.
The players had been kept at a detention centre for illegal immigrants in Botswana’s second city of Francistown, where the match was played.
The United Nations carried out a year- long investigation and found out that similar defection by Eritrean soccer players occurred in Kenya in 2009, Tanzania in 2011 and Uganda in 2012.
According to the investigation by the U.N., they also found out that Eritrea subjected its citizens to indefinite national service and killed people who tried to flee the country. Allegations which the Eritrean Foreign Ministry dismissed