Ten players from the Eritrean national football team have reportedly refused to board their plane back home after competing in a World Cup qualifying match in Botswana and are now seeking asylum.

The men were detained by the Botswana police after refusing to return home despite the intervention of the Eritrean ambassador in Botswana, the BBC reported.

This is not the first time that Eritrean athletes have refused to return home after participating in national sporting duties. In 2013, Uganda granted asylum to 15 Eritrean players and their team doctor after they refused to return home at the end of the 2012 Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup tournament.

While the players’ reasons for their refusal to return home is yet to be established, in previous cases, athletes have cited fear of being enlisted in the army.

Eritrea has been accused by human rights groups and the United Nation for gross human rights abuses. Eritreans have been trekking to different countries across the globe to escape from poverty, soaring food prices and political instability.

Europe has been battling with a growing number of migrants and asylum seekers and according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Eritreans are only second to Syrians, “as the most common nationality to arrive on European shores so far this year, comprising 22% of all people entering Italy by boat,” the Guardian reported.

According to the UNHCR report produced last year, “Nearly 37,000 Eritreans applied for asylum in 38 European countries over the first 10 months of this year, compared to about 13,000 in the same period last year,” the Guardian reported.

Source: the BBC