Eritrean footballers who vanished from a hotel in Uganda during a tournament are seeking asylum in the country, a Ugandan government official has said.
"It's true 17 players and a doctor from Eritrea have come to us claiming that they feel unsafe at home and that they want asylum in Uganda," Musa Ecweru, Uganda's junior minister for refugees, was reported as saying by Reuters.
"We have told police to stop searching for them, and we have also given them asylum seekers' forms.
"They will be interviewed by a committee and they will be subjected to rigorous questioning to determine whether their reasons for fleeing their country are genuine."
The players, who had been taking part in the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations cup, vanished from their hotel after a 2-0 defeat to Rwanda on Friday.
Mass defections by Eritrean players during tournaments abroad are becoming increasingly regular. The United Nations has said the country, a dictatorship, detains thousands of people as political prisoners and has imposed summary executions.
In July 2011, 13 members of an Eritrean club sought asylum in Tanzania. Two years earlier, 12 members of the national squad fled after taking part in a tournament in Kenya.