Olympic athlete asks for asylum in the UK after fleeing his camp

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An Olympic athlete from Africa was being quizzed by Border Agency officials today after walking into a police station in Leeds city centre and asking for asylum in the UK.

It is understood the male competitor, believed to be a middle distance runner in his mid-twenties, turned up at Leeds Bridewell on Tuesday.

It is thought the athlete who claimed asylum left his team as they were about to move from their training camp to the Olympic Village in London.

The sportsman, whose identity has not been revealed, claimed he was a victim of persecution in his homeland and now faces a grilling from UK Border Agency officials.

The man, who is believed to have entered Britain legally with the Olympic squad of an east African country, is having his application processed in the normal way after police passed the case to the agency.

However, it is thought he will no longer play a role in the Olympics and will live in secure accommodation outside London while his case for asylum is investigated.

A spokesman for the Home Office said he could not comment on individual cases, while a spokeswoman for West Yorkshire Police said asylum applications were a matter for the UK Border Agency.

News of the claim follows warnings from immigration officials that up to two per cent of athletes, officials and supporters may claim refuge in the UK during and after the Olympics.

However, they were reportedly shocked that a claim had been entered before the athlete had competed, as most claims at previous Olympics and Commonwealth Games have been made post-competition.

At the 2002 Commonwealth Games, more than 20 members of one West African country left their team camp and sought to stay on in the UK, while at one major games in Australia, 22 competitors from five different African nations sought sanctuary.

Some groups supporting gay male and female athletes have openly encouraged them to take advantage of being in the UK to claim asylum and seek protection from persecution in their home country.

2 November 2013...     Police patrol Elland Road at Leeds United's match with Yeovil. (TJ1001/01d). Picture Tony Johnson

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