Olympians spark hunt with illegal stay in Australia

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Australian immigration officers are hunting more than 100 Olympic and Paralympic team members, including eight Britons, accused of illegally overstaying their special visas.

Australian immigration officers are hunting more than 100 Olympic and Paralympic team members, including eight Britons, accused of illegally overstaying their special visas.

A spokesman for the Australian Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, said 108 team members from 61 countries were still in Australia and unaccounted for, more than three months after the Olympic flame was extinguished.

The biggest group, 11 athletes, coaches and officials, is from the United States. The British illegals are believed to have joined the flocks of backpackers and other tourists with expired visas.

Others who have outstayed their welcome are from Spain, Germany, Russia, Nigeria and Japan, with smaller numbers from Equatorial Guinea, Cuba and Gabon.

The government spokesman called on the overstayers, who are believed to be either working or staying with family and friends, to come forward and leave Australia voluntarily And he warned that immigration compliance officers had already begun searching for them. "They've gone underground but we want them to go home," he said. Those who fail to turn themselves in face incarceration in one of Australia's detention centres for illegal immigrants and, ultimately, deportation.

No names or details of the illegals have been released for what the government calls legal reasons but no medal winners are believed to be among them. "It's across the board, but I think it's skewed mostly towards team officials who have stayed on," said the spokesman.

More than 38,000 Olympic "family" members were granted special visas before the Sydney Games last year, allowing them to stay in Australia until 1 November. A further 8,000 people were issued with visas for the Paralympics.

Mr Ruddock's spokesman said that considering the thousands of people involved in both Games, the overstay rate was relatively small. "The non-return rate is still far lower than we have for the general tourist intake," he said.

Thirty-five members of Olympic teams have already applied for political asylum in Australia including two Russians, four weightlifters and wrestlers from Georgia and a boxer from Gabon.

Comments