22 Lithuanian fans vanish after match

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The Independent Online

A group of Lithuanian football fans who came to Britain to see a European cup tie have vanished, raising concerns that they could be intending to seek asylum.

A group of Lithuanian football fans who came to Britain to see a European cup tie have vanished, raising concerns that they could be intending to seek asylum.

Twenty-two fans travelled over with the team, their coaches and medical staff to watch the Uefa Intertoto Cup match between Bradford City and FK Atlantas at the West Yorkshire club last weekend. But when the party's aircraft took off to fly back to Lithuania, the fans were nowhere to be seen and the players had to return without them.

A spokesman for Bradford City, which won the game 4-1, said: "We said goodbye to the players on the bus and the fans were due to make their own way back to the airport so we were unaware that anything was amiss.

"But it would seem that when the players got to the airport, their supporters who had travelled over with them weren't there and no one has heard anything since."

Now it is thought that some of the fans might have travelled straight to London after arriving in the country without even going to the game. Paul Grybas, the steward at Bradford's Lithuanian Club, said he believed that anyone who failed to return home would try to stay in Britain.

"My own personal opinion is that there's no way they can afford to get another plane back," he said. "I doubt very much they will be paying for charter flights back later."

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "They could have used the chance of a cheap flight to visit relatives or claim asylum. We have no indication that any have applied for asylum locally."

Anyone planning to claim asylum can spend six months in the United Kingdom as a visitor before they have to apply. The majority wait until that period has almost expired before making an application.

One Lithuanian-language newspaper has reported that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 Lithuanians currently seeking asylum in Britain. The authorities now insist that anyone planning to stay in the country must have two contact addresses where residents will take responsibility for them in an effort to deter asylum applications.

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