The Eritreans were among about a dozen Olympians from Africa who chose not to go home after the London games due to political and economic turmoil in their various countries.
"In Eritrea, we have a very dictatorial regime," Aaron Berhane, a spokesman for Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change, told Voice of America. "There is no freedom of speech; there is no freedom of movement, no freedom of religion. The country is under a totalitarian government."
Steeplechase runner Weynay Ghebresilasie carried the flag for the Eritrean team in the opening ceremony and apparently decided at the last moment to remain in Britain. "He didn't plan to seek asylum before he came to the U.K. hoping that things would get better in the future in the country for him and for his people and his family," Berhane said. "Unfortunately he realized day by day that things are going wrong."
No formal decision has yet been made by British officials on the asylum applications of the Eritreans or the other athletes, who media reports identify as being from Congo and Cameroon.