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EMDHR Press Release about Eritrean footballers seeking asylum in Botswana

Ten members of the Eritrean National football team players applied for political asylum on the 14th of October 2015 in Francistown. Initially, the Government of Botswana announced that they would be deported back home. However, EMDHR is pleased with the Court Order by Consent handed down by the High Court in Lobatse that sat on late night on the 16th of October.

The Court Order stated inter alia:

  1. The Respondents (the Government of the Republic of Botswana) shall not remove from the jurisdiction of the Botswana certain Eritrean Nationals, all members of the Eritrean National Football Team, ten in number, who on or about 14th October, 2015 presented themselves to Botswana Government officials at Francistown seeking political asylum.

  2. This Order together with all originating process and any pleading (if any) filed by the Respondents shall be served personally upon the asylum seekers by the Applicant within 14 days of this Order.

  3. The parties shall file all pleading prior to the date of Status Hearing (11 Dec 2015).

  4. The Applicant's legal representatives shall have access to the asylum seekers.

The EMDHR is grateful for the support and compassion shown towards the Eritrean National Football Team players by the people of Botswana, which is a clear demonstration of the African spirit of UBUNTU. We are also appreciative to the Government of Botswana for reconsidering its initial position and we hope the players will be granted asylum. The EMDHR remains seized with the case and is willing to work together with all relevant parties towards its fair conclusion.

Indeed, in an event of forced return the asylum seekers would have been accused of treason for attempting to abscond and seeking asylum. In a country where there is no rule of law, the punishment for such “offences” is severe, ranging from disappearance and extrajudicial execution. Contrary to the misleading statements and false promise by the Eritrean Ambassador in Southern Africa, Mr. Saleh Omer, these players are part of the abusive forced conscription and forced labour practices of the totalitarian regime ruling Eritrea. In a normal situation, being a member of a national team would have been such an achievement for these young players, but they know that their fate is doomed in Eritrea under the current regime and that is why they chose to seek asylum in Botswana.

Eritrea is ruled by fear and not by law. It has no constitution, no parliament, no judiciary, and all forms of freedoms and rights are either banned or severely restricted. Citizens are often arbitrarily arrested, disappeared, tortured, and even extrajudicially executed. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea confirmed in 2015 the “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations” in the country. The Eritrean youth are at the receiving end of the regime’s ruthlessness and brutality. Today the youth are wasting their potential and talents in a forced and indefinite military conscription and doing forced labour. Today, Eritrea has become a country where even high school students are taken into a military training camp and forced labour programs. As a result these appalling conditions in their country, Eritrean youth are fleeing in mass seeking refuge in exile where they are granted asylum and hope to reconstruct their lives. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) 17 October 2015 Pretoria, South Africa

Tel: +27 72 196 3099 (South Africa) Tel: +26 77 545 8831 (Botswana)

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