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‘If they find us it’s death or kidnap’: the Eritrean footballers on the run

As Eritrea internationals use matches abroad to defect and seek asylum, we speak to one of the players hiding in Uganda. The moment Mewael Yosief had been expecting all his life came a couple of hours after what should are the top of his young football career. Two goals and a man-of-the-match display from the tall midfielder in Eritrea’s 5-0 victory over Zanzibar on 29 September 2019, which found out a Cecafa Under-20 Challenge Cup semi-final against the East African heavyweights Kenya, was hailed by a tweet from Yemane Gebremeskel, the country’s minister of data , praising his performance. https://www.maxbetsbobet.org agen sbobet international

But because the officialdom staying with the squad at their hotel in Uganda toasted their victory and therefore the coach’s prediction that they might even continue to win the tournament for the primary time, Yosief and his teammates Simon Asmelash, Hermon Yohannes and Hanibal Tekle seized their opportunity.

“Everyone was celebrating our victory that meant we might be within the semi-finals in order that they didn’t think we were getting to run away,” the 19-year-old remembers. “When we asked the guards if we could choose a walk, they said: ‘OK you’ll go.’ That’s once we defected.”

After three weeks on the run, they released a video via at some point Seyoum – a gaggle focused on human rights for Eritreans that was found out by the London- and Stockholm-based campaigner Vanessa Tsehaye – during which they begged the United Nations diplomat for Refugees (UNHCR) to grant them asylum during a new country.

“We wanted to invite help,” Yosief says. “After that, the UNHCR contacted us and told us they might take us to a secure house and here we are. Now we are expecting a choice but it’s to be in favour for us. We cannot stay here in Uganda. There are numerous Eritreans working for the govt here and that they are still hunting us.

“I’m unsure how they acknowledged but one among the folks that helped us escape suddenly went missing at some point ,” he adds. “After three weeks, he finally called us and he said the govt had been trying to kidnap him. he’s now hiding also and that we can’t contact him any longer . you’ve got to know that this is often serious. it’s not a joke. the sole thing that’s keeping us safe is that the incontrovertible fact that they don’t know where we are. If they find us it’s either death or kidnap. If they’re successful, they’re going to manage to bring us back to Eritrea and punish us for the remainder of our lives. you’d never hear again from any folks . If it’s tough for them to kidnap us, then they’re going to just kill us.”

The four players are awaiting the results of their asylum application after they were introduced by Tsehaye to the American attorney Kimberley Motley. Motley believes the choice could take a while despite the high-profile nature of their case.

“It all really depends on the Ugandan government and UNHCR,” she says. “Unfortunately there are tons of individuals from Eritrea who are seeking asylum in Uganda. It’s very typical for them.”

Two of them have contracted malaria since their arrival at their current house at the top of October and Yosief admits their spirits are low after numerous weeks trying to evade capture.

“It’s a very hard life,” he says. “We are sick. This place … it’s distant from civilisation so it’s good for cover but there are not any facilities and it’s hard to seek out enough food. Our bodies are feeling weak. We cannot contact our families. It’s very sad for us. But we are still surviving through hope.”