Australia AWOL African athletes have visas to stay

03:51  16 may  2018
03:51  16 may  2018 Source:

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The African nation of Cameroon has lost one-fifth of its Commonwealth Games team while competing on the Gold Coast. The athletes ' visas are yet to expire, with authorities aware of the incident but not currently pursuing a missing person's case.

The number of African athletes and officials to have gone missing has now grown to 23. They all have a legal right to stay in Australia until May 15, the date their visas expire, and it is not known whether they will remain in the country or return home.

Cameroon's flagbearer Essiane Clotilde leads the delegation during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games© ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images Cameroon's flagbearer Essiane Clotilde leads the delegation during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has refused to acknowledge reports some of 11 African athletes who went missing during the Commonwealth Games have obtained bridging visas to stay in Australia temporarily.

Mr Dutton has instead urged the competitors to give themselves up as the visas they were issued for the Gold Coast Games expired at midnight on Tuesday.

However, the head of a service that helps refugees migrate to Australia says some of the missing group already have bridging visas.

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All athletes at the Commonwealth Games have visas to travel in Australia until May 15. Cameroonian weightlifter Olivier Matam has gone AWOL .Source:Getty Images.

African athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Australia have been in the news for action on and off the track. The nuclear option would be staying on illegally after the visa expires and, without valid documentation, likely turning to menial jobs to earn money.

"I know some of them have already had interviews with immigration," said David Addington, the chairman of Sydney's Northern Beaches Refugee Sanctuary.

"I know that some of them have already been given bridging visas ... so you don't get detained."

Refugee Advice and Casework Service principal solicitor Sarah Dale has also told AAP her Sydney legal centre helped a number of the athletes lodge applications for protection before their Games visas expired.

Mr Dutton has nonetheless called for the athletes to present themselves to Australian Border Force officers.

"If people have breached their visa conditions ... enforcement action will take place to identify those people and to deport them if they don't self-declare," he said in Melbourne on Tuesday.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson says the athletes shouldn't be allowed to stay.

The missing athletes include five boxers and three wrestlers from Cameroon, two athletes from Uganda and a Rwandan Paralympic powerlifting coach.

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