Australia says some Comm Games athletes seeking new visas

CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian Border Force says it is aware some foreign athletes have remained in the country beyond the extent of their visas for the Commonwealth Games, and confirmed several of them have applied to stay longer.

The temporary visas which allowed accredited athletes and officials to travel to Australia for the April 4-15 event on the Gold Coast expired Tuesday at midnight.

The Australian Associated Press said five boxers and three wrestlers from Cameroon, two athletes from Uganda and a Rwandan Paralympic powerlifting coach are still in Australia. But there were new reports Wednesday that the number of athletes could be closer to 20.

"Some individuals have already applied for other visas, while others will seek to engage Australia's protection obligations," the Border Force agency said in a statement Wednesday. "Those cases will be rigorously assessed."

The ABF also warned those who remain without a visa and don't attempt to contact government officials: "Anyone in Australia without a valid visa will be subject to enforcement measures aimed at locating, detaining and removing them from Australia ... and may also face a three-year re-entry ban."

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had earlier refused to acknowledge reports that some of athletes had obtained bridging visas.

But an official with a refugee agency in Sydney said he was aware some of the athletes had been in contact with the government.

"I know some of them have already had interviews with immigration," David Addington, chairman of Sydney's Northern Beaches Refugee Sanctuary, was quoted as saying. "I know that some of them have already been given bridging visas ... so you don't get detained."

Sarah Dale, a lawyer with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service in Sydney, said the organization had helped a number of people lodge applications.

Dale said she was unable to give precise numbers because of privacy issues, but said it was more than 19.

"It's our expectation that there are significantly more people in the community that have sought asylum here in Australia," Dale said Wednesday. "It's certainly more than what's being reported."

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