By Jeremy Sollars
UPDATE: Eight missing members of the Cameroon Commonwealth Games team – which prepared for the Gold Coast Games in Warwick – may be among 40 overseas athletes understood to be seeking to stay in Australia.
A Gold Coast migration agent has today confirmed to the media that his firm has been contacted by international athletes, mainly from African nations.
In addition to the Cameroonians who went missing from the Games Village this week, competitors from Rwanda, Uganda and Sierra Leone in Africa are also unaccounted for at the Village.
Ian Natherson from Ready Migration in Southport has said many of the missing athletes could be eligible for either student or ‘distinguished talent’, but would not confirm if any of the athletes reported missing were among those who have contacted his office.
But he said of those who “overstay their welcome” in breach of their visas “eventually the authorities will catch up with you and you will be held in detention and then possibly be deported”.
The missing athletes’ visas are believed to be due to expire on or around May 15.
Originally it was understood five Cameroonian team members – a combination of weightlifters and boxers – went missing yesterday, Wednesday 11 April, but a further three were reported as absent overnight, with two of the eight women.
The Cameroon Commonwealth Games contingent spent nearly three weeks in Warwick in training and preparation leading up to the Games, which started on April 4 and finish this Sunday.
Federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned all overseas athletes at the start of the Games not to think about overstaying their visas once the Games are over.
In January, the United Nations revealed more than 15,000 refugees had fled Cameroon amid a crackdown on English-speaking separatists.
Overseas athletes could apply for asylum in Australia but they risk a lengthy stay in detention if the Australian Border Force cancels their existing visas.
Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad has said she hopes the missing athletes do not try to overstay their visas.
“I just hope they’re out enjoying the delights of Queensland for a little while and will do the right thing and come back to the Games and go home appropriately,” she said.