Botswana has granted asylum to 10 Eritrean football players who refused to return home after a World Cup qualifier mid-October, their lawyer said on Thursday.
The lawyer, Dick Bayford, who represents the South Africa-based Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights, said that the government did not give reasons for its decision.
“The footballers will now be moved from a centre for undocumented immigrants in Francistown to a north-eastern refugee camp, where they will stay until they get work permits,’’ Bayford told newsmen from Gaborone.
The Eritreans were found missing from their hotel rooms after playing in a qualifying match for the 2018 World Cup on Oct. 13.
Local reports said that police found them loitering around town the next day, looking for help in lodging asylum requests.
It said that the players wanted to avoid Eritrea’s compulsory and long military service.
Report says defections of athletes are not unusual in Eritrea, which is accused of having a repressive regime and a poor human rights record.