A pair of Cuban softball players who failed to show up for the Women’s World Softball Championship in Surrey have not had any contact with their team for three days.
Tournament spokeswoman Laura Ballance said she notified the RCMP when the women did not arrive for the first game on Sunday and that the Canada Border Services Agency is involved.
“It’s complicated because they’re actually on a six-month visitor visa so they technically haven’t done anything wrong,” she said Wednesday. “But they’re not with their team.”
Ballance said it’s unclear whether the women were trying to defect instead of playing in the 10-day tournament involving 31 countries including Australia, Israel, Switzerland and Uganda.
Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman Erin Steeksma said that due to privacy concerns, she could not discuss whether the players have made refugee claims.
David Long of U.S. Customs and Border Protection also cited privacy issues, saying he can’t confirm whether the women are seeking admission into the United States.
He said that generally, a Cuban national who arrives at a U.S. border and expresses fear of returning home is inspected and paroled while checks are done on any criminal or immigration history in the United States.
“The Cuban national may be eligible under the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act of 1966 to apply for lawful permanent residence one year after inspection and parole,” he said in a statement.
Ballance said 11 countries with players at the tournament had never before participated in any world championship.
The team from Kenya, for example, donned worn-out running shoes and lost 28 to 0 against New Zealand, she said.
“The (New Zealanders) went out that day and bought every single player on the Kenyan team cleats,” Ballance said, adding the team from France has been overwhelmed by spectators bringing them flowers in the aftermath of a deadly attack in Nice.
The Canadian Press