About 200 seek asylum, 50 still missing after Commonwealth Games

Just over a month after the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games ended on 15 April, almost 200 athletes and officials have applied for refugee visas and 50 more people remain unaccounted for, Australian immigration officials say.

Department of Home Affairs official Malisa Golightly told a Senate committee that 190 people had applied for what is known in Australia as a protection visa, while between 10 and 15 people had applied for different kinds of visas.

Another 50 people whose Commonwealth Games visas had expired had not been in touch with authorities and their whereabouts was unknown, she said, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Athletes from nations including Rwanda, Uganda, Cameroon and Sierra Leone are among those reported to have disappeared during the games.

Sarah Dale of the Refugee Advice and Casework Service told the ABC that most of those involved were from African nations and suggested that some did not want to return home because of their sexuality. Homosexual acts are illegal in a number of Commonwealth nations, including several in Africa.

The number of overstayers constitutes about 3 percent of the 8,000 athletes and officials who arrived in Australia to take part in the sporting competition.

It’s significantly higher than the 45 people who remained in Australia after the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. After the Olympics in London in 2012, 21 athletes were reported missing and about 80 asylum applications were filed by participants, officials and spectators, reports at the time said.

Australia takes an extremely tough line on asylum seekers, refusing to process claims from those who arrive by boat and confining them to offshore detention camps. But its laws require that it processes refugee claims from those who arrive in the country legally and then apply for a protection visa.

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