Missing athletes targeted by Border Force special op
THE Australian Border Force has launched a special operation to find and remove Commonwealth Games athletes who have overstayed their visas after confirming a number are still in Sydney and Melbourne a month after the event ended.
More than 20 athletes - largely from Cameroon, Uganda, Rwanda and Sierra Leone - are understood to have remained in Australia awaiting different refugee visas or in hiding.
Another group has left the country after the expiry of their visas on Tuesday night, the Home Affairs Department said.
Cameroonian weightlifter Olivier Matam confirmed to the Daily Telegraph he was in Melbourne but declined to comment.
Two Sierra Leone squash players - Ernest Jombla and Yusif Mansaray - are also understood to be among those who have remained in the country, although it is unclear if they or Mr Matam have received bridging visas.
Cameroon's chef de mission, Victo Agbor Nso, had earlier told the BBC "the authorities are very disappointed with the deserters - some did not even compete".
But Refugee Advice and Casework Service principal solicitor Sarah Dale, who is assisting a number of the asylum seekers, dismissed suggestions some of the claimants had planned to come to Australia as part of the games team and then stay.
"I would not suggest that there was a group of people that had decided 'let's compete in the Commonwealth Games to get to Australia'," Ms Dale said.
In a statement, Border Force said a "dedicated operation" had been set up to find those were meant to have left after the end of the games but had not done so.
"Visa overstayers are a common feature of many major international events," the statement reads.
"Some individuals have already applied for other visas, while others will seek to engage Australia's protection obligations ... those cases will be rigorously assessed in line with standard processes."