14 August 2012
Congolese And Cameroonians Olympians Refuse To Leave London
Four members of Congo’s Olympic team were said to have gone missing in London yesterday as thousands of their fellow London 2012 athletes and officials flew home. Their disappearance took the number of African athletes and delegates attending London 2012 who have vanished from their camps or sought political asylum in Britain to 15. Immigration officials expect that number to increase sharply when athletes’ special London 2012 visas expire in November
A UN-run radio station in Congo said Cedric Mandembo, who competed for the central African country in judo, disappeared after the closing ceremony and has not been reachable on his mobile phone. He lost his match after 49 seconds and is said to have left the Olympic Village without saying where he was going. He had been due to fly home last night. Congo judo coach Ibula Masengo, boxing trainer Blaise Bekwa, and national technical director of athletics Guy Nkita had also gone missing, it was claimed. They too were said to have left the Olympic Village with their luggage. The Home Office declined to comment on the individual cases. Congo team officials were ‘out of contact’ returning home while no one was available for comment at the country’s London embassy. The disappearances come at a hugely sensitive time for the Government after the success of the Olympics and with the Paralympics due to begin in two weeks.
It follows fears from immigration staff that up to 2 per cent of Olympic visitors from some continents may claim refuge in the UK in the months after the Games.
Authorities in Cameroon, which is regarded as one of the more stable countries in Africa, have accused the boxers of wanting to be economic migrants and say they should have returned home with other athletes. But the Olympians, who absconded from their Stratford, East London village last week, told the BBC they had been threatened and wanted a sponsor to help them stay in Britain