Runaway African footballers prompt migration law review

GöteborgA recent incident involving five young footballers from Tanzania who were in Sweden for the annual Gothia Cup tournament has prompted Swedish immigration authorities to tighten their entry requirements for any player who is not from Europe. The Gothia Cup is the world’s largest youth football tournament, but it is emerging as a gateway to illegal migration.

During this year’s tournament, which is held in the Swedish town of Heden near Gothenburg, five Tanzanian youths simply disappeared. None of them have yet applied for asylum in Sweden or any other Schengen country, but it is assumed they plan to stay in Europe.

Although young foreign players vanish into the crowds every year after the tournament, this year the Swedish Migration Board has decided to make it harder for them to do so. Beginning in 2011, all players will have to provide fingerprints in order to get their entry visa to Sweden, The Local reports. This will help track them down if and when they apply for asylum.

Leif Andersson of the Migration Board says most defectors wait several weeks before applying for asylum, making it hard for authorities to tie the applicant to the Gothia Cup. The five Tanzanians who recently defected all played for the same team and were born between 1990 and 1993.

Nils Lundqvist, the police inspector in Gothenburg, said, “It’s a common occurrence after Gothia. Every year, we have young people who disappear. There is always a handful, most often from African countries, who take off,” he told the newspaper. Lundquist added that last year an entire team from Libya didn’t return home.