Gaborone – Botswana has urged the United Nations to resettle 10 Eritrean soccer players it granted asylum in another country to save from harsh conditions of its (Bostwana) law.
Botswana’s Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe, said that under Botswana law, the players must stay in a refugee camp for 10 years.
He explained that the country was not withdrawing asylum for the players but was giving them a chance to seek refuge in a country where the resettlement process was faster.
The players claimed asylum on Oct. 13 after playing in a match between their country and Botswana, becoming the latest in a series of defections by athletes from a country under investigation by the UN for human rights violations.
“We are not saying we don’t want them here,” Makgonatsotlhe told newsmen.
“They certainly cannot go back to Eritrea and the law here requires a refugee to have stayed here for at least 10 years for them to be integrated into the society.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”70560″]
‘’The only option is for the UNHCR to seek an alternative host country,” he said.
He said the players could apply to get out of the camp as long as they could sustain themselves, adding however, that ordinarily, most refugees who had no hope of securing employment were not allowed to leave the camps.
Spokeswoman of Pretoria-based UNHCR, Tina Ghelli, said that the players had three options of voluntary repatriation to their home country, receiving alternative status such as citizenship or permanent residence, or resettlement to a third country.
Ghelli said that the decision to refer the refugees to a resettlement country would be based on individual assessments of the players’ cases and whether they met specific criteria.
She added that Botswana did not set a deadline for the UNHCR to respond.
The soccer players are being housed in the Dukwi refugee camp, about 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of the capital, Gaborone. (Reuters/NAN)