Hundreds of Commonwealth Games athletes and officials 'have asylum claims rejected'

Athletes and officials are fighting to stay in Australia with hundreds reportedly having their asylum seeker claims rejected since disappearing from the Gold Coast last year.

Locals gather at the launch of The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Locals gather at the launch of The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Source: AAP

Hundreds of athletes and officials who disappeared from last year’s Commonwealth Games to seek asylum in Australia have had their claims rejected by the Morrison government.

Documents first obtained by the Courier Mail under Freedom of Information - and since seen by SBS News - have detailed the vast number of participants fighting to stay in Australia.

The official documents show 217 of the 230 who made asylum claims have had their requests refused by the Department of Home Affairs.

The mostly African athletes and officials from countries including Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Uganda remained in Australia after going missing from the games held in April 2018.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman said the applications would receive no special treatment.

"These applications will be treated like all other in line with standard processes," he said.

"People whose appeals fail will be required to leave Australia. Anyone who does not comply will be subject to detention and removal by the Australian Border Force."

Among these athletes was Amos who was put onto a bridging visa while his application was being assessed and spoke to SBS News last July.

“You feel like you’re between the devil and the deep blue sea,” he said. 

The Department of Home Affairs had granted around 200 athletes and officials bridging visas to live legally in the community while their applications were being considered.

Official documents show 204 athletes and officials whose claims have been rejected have lodged appeals with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with four already having those dismissed.

The documents showed six athletes and officials have already returned to their home countries and one remained in immigration detention.

Nine protection visa applications are being assessed by the Department and more than a dozen athletes and officials are still unaccounted for.

Department documents found 17 ‘unlawful non-citizens’ from the Games remain in Australia including 14 from Ghana and three from Rwanda with 13 of these still missing and four in immigration detention.

In a statement a spokesperson for Australian Border Force said those attempting to remain in the community without a valid visa would be subject to enforcement measures. 

"Anyone who is in Australia without a valid visa should depart immediately, or contact the Department of Home Affairs to discuss their visa status," the spokesperson said.

Some of the athletes began working in Australia.
Source: SBS News

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has previously taken a hard-line stance against those staying on in Australia after their visas expired.  

“[Australian Border Force] will be rounding these people up and deporting them as quickly as possible,” he told 2GB last year.

Mr Dutton had said those athletes that disappeared would be removed from the country.

“They aren’t going to game the system,” he told 2GB.

“Australian Border Force officers will find these people, they’ll be held in immigration detention until they can be deported.”

Those athletes and officials that went missing included a third of Cameroon’s team with the disappearance of eight members confirmed by officials.

*Not his real name

Published 28 October 2019 at 12:11pm, updated 28 October 2019 at 12:15pm