KAMPALA, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Eritrean national football team which disappeared in Uganda has finally got refugee status in the East African country, a senior government official said here on Monday.
Apollo David Kazungu, Commissioner for Refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister told Xinhua in an interview that the Refugee Eligibility Committee had found the group's claims valid and granted them refugee status.
The Eritrean team had been eliminated in the 2012 Council for East and Central African Football Associations (Cecafa) tournament in the early stages after drawing with Zanzibar 0-0, losing 3-2 to Malawi and being beaten 2-0 by Rwanda in their last match.
Instead of boarding the next plane out of Uganda, the players and officials left their hotel reportedly for shopping, and only three returned home.
Kazungu said that most of the team refused to return home for fear of being allegedly conscripted into military training.
He said although the Eritreans players have been granted asylum, they have not been relocated to resettlement camps because they prefer to stay in the Ugandan capital Kampala.
After the 2010 Cecafa tournament in Tanzania, 13 players from Eritrea's team also disappeared and defected. Several of those players have since reappeared in Houston, Texas under a refugee resettlement program in the United States.