Olympic athlete claims asylum

26 Jul 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

An Olympic athlete has claimed asylum in Britain with his application currently being processed by the UK immigration authorities.

The unnamed male competitor is thought to be from an African team competing in the events and has turned up at Bridewell Police Station in Leeds to claim asylum after entering the country legally as an athlete.

A spokesman from the Home Office was unable to comment on the specific case but told Sky News that all athletes competing are expected to leave when their UK visa accreditation expires, adding that asylum applications will be dealt with in account with standard UK immigration procedures.

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, told the news agency: “It's a tragic fact that many people competing in the Olympics come from countries around the world where they are at risk of human rights abuses, conflict, and violence.

"Asylum is a human right, meaning that anyone can apply for asylum in a safe country if they are being persecuted in their own. The UK is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention which means we will offer protection to people who are found to be in need of it.”

She added that as Britain welcomes the world in for the Olympic Games, it must remember to uphold its “proud tradition of offering safety to those fleeing persecution”.

The Olympics are renowned as a difficult time for immigration authorities and during the Sydney 2000 Olympics, 145 people overstayed their visas, while 35 applied for political asylum and 62 went missing. Meanwhile, 20 members of the Sierra Leone team disappeared from their camp at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester before the end of the competition.

The disarray that has plagued the immigration authorities in the run up to the London Games has already seen problems with the processing systems at the main airports for Olympic traffic and threats of strikes, make it likely that there could well be a number of complications further down the line.