ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka athletes who went missing after going to the UK to attend Commonwealth Games have been located but British authorities have not disclosed the locations, an official said.
Sri Lanka has seen a spike in boat people amid the worst currency crisis in the history of the central bank with the rupee falling from 182 to 370 to the US dollar over two years.
During the Commonwealth games 2022, which held in Birmingham, UK 10 of the Sri Lankan athletes and an official decamped from the games villages without informing the officials of the Sri Lankan team or the Commonwealth games.
An official of the Judo team, contestants in judo, wrestling, boxing and beach volleyball went missing. There were two females.
Major General Dampath Fernando who was appointed as the Chef de Mission of the Sri Lanka team for the 22nd Commonwealth Games said, any person in the village had the freedom to leave the village at any time.
“It was also disheartening to note that during the games, 10 athletes and an official disserted us and they have decamped, which has brought discredit and black mark to our country as whole,” Fernando said at the Facilitation of the Medal winners event on Thursday (25).
“Firstly, one of our team mangers, so called the president of the Judo federation, a senior military officer decided to decamp. Not only that he also encouraged his team mates to do the same. Likewise, all together 10 athletes went. It has brought so much discredit to the country.”
All the athletes who left the team participated but went with that motive of deserting and were not focusing on their respective events, he said.
Since the athletes have six months’ visa multiple, there are no legal barriers for them to remain in the UK for the next six months, Fernando said,
“So even if they stayed without passport, they can stay in UK without an issue. In fact, when I asked from the police, they told me the protocol is to carry out investigation.”
UK Birmingham Police had located about 6 of the missing people, however, locations of their hideouts have not been disclosed to the Sri Lankan officials under immigration law of the UK.
Fernando said, after the first two players, the president of the Judo and a player the Birmingham Police who was investigating the incident has sent a message through the Commonwealth secretariat saying they have located two of the missing people and mentioned that the Police have contacted them and were informed both were well and fine.
“After some time when three boxers went missing, when I was chatting with the officer who was in charge and he said, the first two players who were located were given their passports,” Fernando said.
“I said, we respect the UK law, but those two who were located are Sri Lankan athletes, that is employed by the Army. And they will be listed as deserted soldiers. They are here with the government funding and it is not a correct decision to give the passport for them.”
“At that time, he had another passport of a missing athlete and handed over to me, after mentioning all passports will be given to the high Commission of Sri Lanka in UK.”
It was not clear whether they will apply for asylum, Fernando said.
“Even if they do that they will be sent to Uganda. Two batches have been sent like that.”
Meanwhile, Amal Harsha De Silva, the secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports said, an independent probe will be actions against the athletes based on the report.
Sri Lanka has seen a spike in boat people after the rupee fell from 182 to 360 to the US dollar after two years of money printing to target an output gap. (Colombo/ Aug 26/2022)