LONDON – The Sudanese embassy denied that one of its track athletes attempted to seek asylum in the United Kingdom just before the start of the Olympic Games.
Reports surfaced Thursday that a Sudanese runner walked into a police station in the city of Leeds, two hours north of London, and announced he was seeking political asylum.
''We herewith categorically refute allegations ... that a Sudanese member of those who qualified for the Olympic competition and have arrived in London is either missing [or] sought political asylum,'' the embassy said in a statement. Yahoo! Sports contacted the Sudan embassy in London but was told by a diplomat that "we do not want to talk about this matter."
Local reports said the athlete walked into Bridewell police station on Thursday and was willingly detained by an officer.
"We didn't arrest him," a spokesperson for West Yorkshire police said. "He was handed over to the U.K. Border Agency who are now dealing with it."
Representatives of the Border Agency and the United Kingdom's Home Office said it's not their policy to confirm identities or comment on individual cases. However, a spokesperson said that the organization's stance was to strongly discourage Olympic athletes from using the Games to seek asylum.
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"We expect those granted entry into the U.K. on the basis of participation to have left by the time their accreditation expires," the spokesperson said.
Before the Games, border officials estimated that up to two percent of Olympians could seek refugee status at the end of the Olympics.
Leading support group Refugee Action has informed its operatives around the United Kingdom to be on alert for potential Olympic asylum cases and to provide the necessary assistance.
Britain is seen as an attractive possibility for asylum seekers because of its human rights record, health care system and diverse culture. During the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, more than 20 athletes sought the right to remain in the U.K.
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