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Saturday, 29 August 2009

Missing, Presumed on Benefits

From The Northern Echo:

POLICE are investigating after a fourth member of an African exchange programmed went missing in the North-East.

Konjit Assefa, of Ethiopia, was visiting Hartlepool, as part of a Global Xchange, when she disappeared.

The 22-year-old, who was staying on the Headland, has not been seen since Tuesday. She was last seen in the town centre at around 12pm.

Three men on the same programme disappeared following a tour of the Houses of Parliament, in London, on July 15.

A spokesman for Cleveland Police urged anyone with any information about Ms Assefas whereabouts to get in touch.

He added: "At the time of her disappearance she is believed to have been wearing stone washed jeans with a black and grey hooded top and was carrying a small black and red rucksack."

Ms Assefa, who is originally from Awasa in Ethiopia, is the fourth member of the volunteer exchange programme to go missing.

Zerihun Weldeyohans Alaro, 24, later contacted organisers after staying with family in London, but was deported.

However, exchange visitors Habtamu Debella, 27, and Muluneh Tilahun, 21, are still missing.

Officers have checked hospitals, hostels and CCTV in an effort to find them, but have so far been unable to locate them.

They were reported missing by programme organisers after they failed to turn up to their accommodation on July 15 and also for the return train journey back to Hartlepool the following day.

The Global Xchange (CORR) programme involves 18 volunteers, nine from the UK and nine from Ethiopia, living in Hartlepool while working for community organisations.

The team is on the second part of the exchange, having already spent three months in Africa.

This is far from a unique event, however:

Scottish Athletics has confirmed that four Ethiopian athletes have fled their London hotel ahead of Wednesday's Falkirk Cup event in Grangemouth.

The athletes absconded from their hotel and failed to make a connecting flight from London to Edinburgh.

The missing individuals are Betelhem Shewatatek, Feleke Bekele, Hagos Tadesse and Tirehas Haileselassie.

"This is a sad thing to happen for my country and the sport," said Dagmawit Amare of the Ethiopian management team.

"My colleague actually tried to restrain two of them, but they ran off."

Recently, a number of African youth footballers went missing on a trip to Sweden. During the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, half of Sierra Leone's squad of 22 disappeared. Some more details of such activity from the BBC:
2002 Commonwealth Games: 21 Sierra Leoneans, 5 Bangladeshis, 1 Pakistani missing in Manchester

2002 Asian Games: 12 Nepalese, 3 Sri Lankans and 1 Mongolian missing in S Korea

2000 Sydney Olympics: 80 officials and athletes overstay visas, 11 cases unresolved

1 comment:

eh said...

One idea might be to require the country or organization to post a hefty bond in order to get the visas. Enough to be painful. Because they'd forfeit the money if any of their citizens go missing.