Eritrean players fail to return home once again

By Joseph OdhiamboBBC Africa, Nairobi
Eritrea were runners-up in the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup Championship.
Eritrea were runners-up in the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup Championship.

Seven players from the Eritrean football team have gone missing after playing in the East African regional championship in Uganda.

The rest of the squad have returned home following the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup, where they finished runners-up.

It's the second time this year footballers from Eritrea have disappeared while on international duty after five players fled from their hotel in the middle of October's Cecafa Under-20 Challenge Cup.

Cecafa are searching for the players and have informed Ugandan authorities about their disappearance.

"The information I have is that seven of them escaped," said Cecafa spokesperson Rogers Mulindwa.

"We have already notified the police, the Federation of Uganda Football Associations and the embassy. We are working closely to locate them and I think we shall get them. They may not have Christmas in Uganda."

This latest incident follows a long list of Eritrean footballers escaping in the past.

In 2015, ten players refused to return home after playing a World Cup qualifying match in Botswana.

Two years earlier 15 players and the team doctor were granted asylum in Uganda after they absconded in the country also during the Senior Challenge Cup.

At the 2009 edition of the tournament the entire team, apart from the coach and an official, failed to return home from Kenya.

Human rights group Amnesty International says thousands of Eritreans continue to flee the countryexternal-link while the authorities severely restrict their right to do so.

The Eritrean government has dismissed these allegations in the past, and said figures of those fleeing are fabricated.

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