12/06/2012 09:41 EST | Updated 02/05/2013 05:12 EST

17 Eritrean players and team doctor apply for asylum after going missing in Uganda

KAMPALA, Uganda - A Ugandan government official says 17 Eritrean footballers and a team doctor have applied for political asylum after going missing during a regional tournament.

Musa Ecweru, Uganda's minister for disaster preparedness and refugees, said the applications were being considered by authorities.

Police had been searching for the Eritreans since they left their team hotel on Tuesday after being eliminated from the east and central African CECAFA Cup and didn't return home with the remainder of Eritrea's travelling party.

Eritreans have previously not returned home after competing in sports events abroad.

The entire Eritrea team sought refugee status at the 2009 CECAFA Cup in Kenya, while some Eritrean athletes went missing at this year's London Olympics.