The government through the Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun the asylum determination process for the Eritrean footballers.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security Augustine Makgonatsotlhe who is also the chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Refugees (ACR) confirmed the development.
The ten players from the Eritrean football team are seeking asylum in the country in a development that has been described as a latest in a series of defections by athletes from a country under investigation by the United Nations (UN) for human-rights violations.
Members of the Red Sea Camels, as Eritrean football team is affectionately known in soccer circles were in this diamond rich nation of Botswana to play the last leg of a two-legged 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Little known Eritrea suffered a humiliating 1-5 defeat on aggregate at the hands of the hosts who are destined to meet with the Eagles of Mali mid next month in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers as they negotiate their way to Russia in 2018.
Ten players out of the 34-man Eritrean delegation sneaked out of their hotel rooms at Tato River Lodge (TRL) here in Francistown in the wee hours of their departure day and started searching for UNHCR offices in order to get assistance on their asylum bid.
Since there are no UNHCR offices in Francistown, information reaching this publication is that some of the ten players were found at the Red Cross offices here in Francistown. Others were combed off the dense bush by members of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) along Tati River.
“The process of facilitating the asylum sought by the ten Eritrean players begun yesterday (last Wednesday) in Francistown,” confirmed Makgonatsotlhe. The ten Eritreans are currently housed at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants.
Makgonatsotlhe added: “Officials from concerned departments are conducting interviews to determine the authenticity of their claims. The process is meant to give the asylum seekers an opportunity to fully explain their fears (of going back home).”
He could not give a time frame as to when the process would be finished. Makgonatsotlhe said the officials would be given time and space to conduct thorough interviews in order to be fully informed.
Dick Bayford, who has been hired by the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) to represent the players also confirmed that the asylum determination process for the ten players has begun.
Since the beginning of the process a week and half, Bayford alongside Makgonatsotlhe and his entourage have been shuttling between Gaborone and Francistown as the interviewing of the footballers is already underway.
Similar mass defections by Eritrean soccer players occurred in Kenya in 2009, Tanzania in 2011 and Uganda in 2012. They were fleeing a country where slavery-like practices are routine and torture widespread, the United Nations said after a year-long investigation.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.