Border Force officials have joined state police forces to find 50 people believed to be in hiding after overstaying visas they were given to attend the Commonwealth Games.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says Border Force officers had launched an operation to find the missing people who disappeared after the Gold Coast event last month.
AROUND 50 competitors are reported to have remained in Australia illegally, following the Commonwealth Games.
A Government official said nearly 200 others hold bridging visas and are applying for refugee status, but Australia has warned it will deport those who stay in the country illegally, after dozens of competitors disappeared from the competition.
“Border Force is working on that at the moment but if people go to ground they are difficult to find,” he told the Nine Network on Tuesday.
“There will be a lot of work done with the state police forces to try and identify where these people are. Yeah, it won’t be easy but they will pop up.”
A Senate committee on Monday heard 205 people had been given temporary bridging visas after the visas they entered Australia on to attend the Games expired.
“We are looking at the way we can restrict some of the benefits and the AAT (Administrative Appeals Tribunal) is looking at that, the legal process, people should get their day in court but at the moment it is dragging out.”
According to BBC, Malisa Golightly, from the department of home affairs, told a Senate committee on Monday (May 21) that the government “had no contact” with the missing athletes, but added: “We know they haven’t left.”
She said that around 190 of the 205 athletes and officials in the country legally are seeking protection visas. The remaining number are applying for business or other visas. Mr Dutton said 190 of those had applied for asylum in Australia, with 15 applying for other types of visas.
He expressed frustration at the bridging visa system, which allows applicants to remain in Australia while their cases are assessed and appealed.
“If you are on a bridging visa there are benefits available, and some of the cases can go on for a period of time,” Mr Dutton said.
Initially, it was believed just 11 participants had not returned home, including five boxers and three wrestlers from Cameroon, two athletes from Uganda and a Rwandan Para-sport powerlifting coach. Australian media had speculated that anywhere between 20 and 100 athletes had absconded during the Golden Coast Games, which ended on 15 April. They included eight members of Cameroon’s delegation, as well as participants from Uganda, Sierra Leone and Rwanda.