Eritrean Red Sea FC footballers seek Tanzania asylum

Red Sea footballers Red Sea FC lost their semi-final to Tanzania's Young Africans

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Thirteen members of an Eritrean football team have asked for political asylum in Tanzania after a regional tournament, officials say.

After Red Sea FC lost the Cecafa championship semi-final on Saturday, only half of the team turned up for the return flight to Eritrea.

This is said to be the fourth time Eritrean footballers have absconded.

Young Eritreans often try to escape poverty, a repressive government and national military service.

"The 13 Eritrean footballers went directly to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in Dar es Salaam and sought protection as refugees," Tanzania's home affairs ministry spokesman Isaac Nantanga said.

He said that they could not be arrested as they had international protection.

Earlier, Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) Angetile Osiah told Reuters news agency that the missing players had been noticed at the airport.

"Some team members colluded in the incident by trying to stamp the passports of the missing players at airport immigration checkpoints but when a physical head count was conducted, it was discovered that 13 players were missing," he said.

Tanzania's Young Africans beat their rivals Simba 1-0 in Sunday's Cecafa final.

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