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Officials ‘intimidate’ Eritrean football players

The lawyers for the 10 members of the Eritrean Football team fighting deportation from Botswana have been visited by unnamed officials whilst in incarceration in Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants Sunday night, which is situated about 20km outside the city centre it was revealed today.

"They had been told that we had asked to delay the legal process to November. They were also told that the interdict stopping their repatriation back to Eritrea was secured by the Botswana Government," said legal representative Dick Bayford of Bayford and Associates.

He said, "It was surprising that the 'officials' should seek to meet with clients at night without meeting appropriate protocols. We are trying to identify these officials and their motives."

Bayford who spent a whole day with his clients Wednesday to build a relationship with them explained that the detention centre does not allow unsupervised access to inmates and looks much like a prison.
"It is like a high security facility. You walk through metal detectors and no cells are allowed into facility. It is surrounded by a security fence. There is no access to outside world," said Bayford. He said, "You are susceptible to multiple influences and you are very vulnerable to manipulation."

The lawyers whilst appreciative of the co-operation and efforts of prison officials with whom they had interacted with expressed concern about the delays in securing access to basic essentials.

"The delay in getting them washing soap, additional clothes and appropriate changes of diet to meet their cultural and religious needs is a concern," said joao Salbany of Bayford and Associates. He said, "They were interned on the 14th October and have been wearing their football kit every day. They do not have different clothes and have no means to generate income."

Only 1 of the players is Muslim, with 2 Roman Catholic and 7 members of Coptic Orthodox Christian Church. Salbany revealed they left team members with belonging to avoid raising suspicion and no efforts have been made to contact family members to avoid exacerbating the situation.

"It is very dangerous to contact family members because Government may tap calls," said Adanen Chebremeskel from the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights.

4 countries have expressed an interest in providing Eritrean football players with political asylum.

 

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