Australia

Government grants 200 Comm Games athletes, officials bridging visas

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Nearly 200 athletes and officials who stayed after the Commonwealth Games have applied for protection visas.

The Department of Home Affairs has told a Senate Estimates hearing that nearly 200 people who attended the Commonwealth Games as athletes and officials have applied for protection visas.

They've been granted bridging visas allowing them to live legally in the community while their applications are considered. 

Of the 205 that have been granted bridging visas, about 15 have applied for other types of visas. 

In response to questions during a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra on Monday, officials also said about 50 other people who have overstayed their visas cannot be located.

"We have had no contact with them," Malisa Golightly, Deputy Secretary of the Visa and Citizenship Services Group, said.

"We know they haven't left."

The number of visa overstayers far exceeds early expectations.

Initially, it was believed just 11 participants had not returned home, including five boxers and three wrestlers from Cameroon, two athletes from Uganda and a Rwandan Para-sport powerlifting coach.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton last week warned border officials were pursuing enforcement action against some overstayers.

About 13,600 visas were issued to athletes, support staff and foreign media to attend the two-week event held on the Gold Coast.

“Around 8,103 people who arrived, 7,848 of those have since departed," Ms Golightly said.

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Comm Games applicants will get 'priority'

Mr Dutton has previously refused to provide numbers on the Commonwealth Games athletes seeking asylum since the event ended on April 15. 

Greens Senator Nick McKim used the hearing to press for details and questioned officials about how they would handle the influx of applications. 

"Is there an urgency provision that the department applies here to try and get them done quickly?" Senator McKim asked. 

"How long can people on average expect the department to take to assess their claims?"

Ms Golightly said they would be given "priority", but did not put a timeframe on it. 

"We will give them priority as far as we can, it will depend on how complete their application is." 

One of the 50 who failed to make an application before their Commonwealth Games visa expired has been detained. 

However, they can still make an application for protection regardless of whether they have a current visa. 

- with AAP. 

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