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Olympic athlete claims asylum in Britain

July 26, 2012 17:56 IST

Hours ahead of the Olympics, an African athlete has claimed political asylum in Britain.

The man, believed to be a middle distance runner in his mid 20s from Africa, was held by the UK Borders Agency on Tuesday night after walking into a police station in Leeds and asking for asylum, The Daily Mail reported.

It follows warnings from immigration officials that they fear up to two per cent of athletes, team officials and supporters may claim refuge in the UK during and after the Games or try to stay on once their visas expire.

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It is understood the athlete disappeared from a pre-Olympics training camp in order to claim asylum, just as he and his team was preparing to move to the athletes' village in Stratford, East London, the report said.

The sportsman, whose identity was not revealed by the authorities, claimed he was a victim of persecution in his homeland and is due to be questioned this week.

Details of the claim emerged in the Olympic Village where one East African team official said he believed a second man -- an Olympic official -- was also preparing to seek asylum.

West Yorkshire Police spokesperson said a man who was "believed to be an Olympic athlete" walked into Bridewell police station in Leeds on Tuesday.

She said he was believed to be "seeking asylum" and added: "We did detain a man, but we didn't arrest him. He was handed over to the UK Border Agency who are now dealing with it".

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