After several athletes who went missing during the 2018 Commonwealth Games showed up in Sydney, Foreign Minister Peter Dutton has issued them with a fresh warning.
A host of athletes and officials disappeared during the Gold Coast event last month, including eight from Cameroon, in scenes described as “very embarrassing” by team officials.
But with visas given to athletes for the Games expiring at midnight on Tuesday, The Daily Telegraph reported that New South Wales’ Refugee Advice and Casework Service were dealing with some of them in their bid to stay in Australia.
And that news came as Gold Coast-based migration agent Ian Natherson told The New Daily that during the Games he had received about 40 queries regarding the possibility of staying in Australia.
Speaking just hours before the deadline, Dutton told reporters: “If they breach the conditions, they’re subject to enforcement action.
“Like anyone else, they’re expected to operate within the law and enforcement action will take place to identify those people and to deport them if they don’t self-declare.”
But athletes will not be breaching conditions by staying in Australia if they are given a bridging visa.
And according to Natherson, from Gold Coast’s Ready Migration, they were likely to receive one if applying for a more permanent visa.
“A bridging visa allows you to stay while a visa application or review is being considered,” he said.
“They [bridging visas] are generally given. If an athlete is unsuccessful in a visa application, they are then given a time frame to get out of the country.
“If they don’t follow that, they could be detained in Australia or deported.”
Mr Natherson said he fielded many queries “on ways of migrating to Australia and what options were possible” from a range of athletes, officials and journalists, who were “mainly from African nations”.
He said Australia provided an opportunity for a better life for many.
“Once you’ve seen Australia, you have to fall in love with this country,” he said.
“Life is so much easier, it is safe and there’s opportunities for work and education.”
Those trying to stay in Australia were considering applying for a range of visas, he said, including ones given to students and skilled workers.
Reportedly still in Australia are five boxers and three wrestlers from Cameroon, two Ugandan athletes and a Rwandan coach, who disappeared after saying he was going to the toilet before his weightlifting team competed.