27 April 2006

Australia searches for missing Games athletes

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Twenty-four Commonwealth Games athletes and officials are now illegally in Australia after their Games visas expired on Wednesday night and another 31 have sought asylum, immigration, Reuters news agency is reporting.

Amanda Vanstone, Australia's Immigration Minister, has urged those athletes who have yet to be in touch with the department, to do so immediately. Vanstone has said that if the missing athletes and officials did not contact authorities, actions would be taken to remove them from the country.

Although officials did not identify the nationalities of the missing, it is believed they include nationals from Britain, Canada, Cameroon, Ghana, India and several other countries.

The Commonwealth Games Travel Authority (CGTA) visas expired on Wednesday night, with 6,651 of the 7,000 people who travelled to Australia now having left the country.

Of those remaining, 289 people hold other visas, such as working holiday, sports, business, visitor , spouse, diplomatic or student visas.

A further 31 have applied for protection.

At least 25 athletes were reported missing from the athlete’s village during the Games, including 14 athletes from war-torn Sierra Leone - two-thirds of its 21-member team. The Sierra Leone athletes were found in different locations in Australia in the week following the Games. They have been granted bridging visas while their new visa applications are being processed.

The Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne from March 15 to 26.

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