Asylum fears as Cameroonian Olympic athletes go MIA
8 August 2012
Seven Olympic athletes from Cameroon have gone missing since coming to the UK.
Officials initially suggested that the athletes had left to visit friends or go sightseeing, but they now fear that the athletes have absconded to seek asylum in the UK. They did not leave any of their belongings behind.
The first to go missing was Drusille Ngako, reserve goalkeeper for the women’s football team, who vanished during the team pre-Olympic preparations. Since then, swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue has also gone missing, and five eliminated boxers disappeared on Sunday.
None of the athletes have broken UK immigration law yet – visas given to Olympic athletes, coaches, and families allow them to stay in the UK until early November, under accreditation rules put in place for the games. The Home Office has added that athletes are permitted to come and go from the Olympic village as they wish.
David Ojong, head of mission for Team Cameroon, was forced to admit that the athletes may have absconded from the camp in a letter to Cameroon’s Ministry of Sports and Physical Education. "What began as rumour has finally turned out to be true,” he wrote.
Some living in Cameroon have said they are unsurprised that Cameroonian athletes would wish to stay away from the country. Economist Flaubert Mbiekop pointed to the economic hardship facing many in Cameroon right now, “especially the athletes who don't receive any support from the government.”
Henri Tchounga, a tour guide in the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde, spoke of his worry for the impact that defection by the athletes could have. “My fear is that now Cameroonians will have a bad reputation and in future we will not be able to get visas. It's good for them but a serious problem for the rest of us.”
The Home Office could not confirm whether any of the athletes have sought asylum yet.