Homeless World Cup Players Claim Asylum

Homeless World Cup players claim asylum
Fifteen players in the Homeless World Cup football tournament have sought asylum in Australia.

Last Updated: 3:33PM GMT 11 Dec 2008

The Australian Department of Immigration confirmed that squad members from Afghanistan and Zimbabwe had applied to stay after the event in Melbourne at the weekend.

In addition, the entire Liberian women's team was also believed to have missed flights out of the country after the tournament closed on Sunday, while a Kenyan player is thought to be missing.

The “active visas” for more than 400 players from 56 teams who came to Melbourne for the event will run out in 10 days. Immigration officials said no players were currently in violation of their visa conditions.

Organisers of the event said they had seen reports of Homeless World Cup asylum seekers but could not confirm that players were seeking to stay.

“We are not across the process in any way and have no further information,” said spokeswoman Natalie Sussman.

Homeless World Cup international spokeswoman Kat Byles told the Herald Sun that 15 African players went missing in Denmark after the previous event and that she expected there would be pleas for asylum in Australia.

“It's something that happens in international events,” she told the paper.

Forty athletes and officials sought asylum in Australia following the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, while 250 pilgrims applied for asylum after July's World Youth Day festivities in Sydney.

Afghanistan beat Russia 5-4 to win the Homeless World Cup, an annual event aimed at raising awareness of the issue.