A number Ugandan athletes who went missing from the Commonwealth Games last month have resurfaced seeking advice on gaining asylum in Australia, refugee advocates said Tuesday.
Six athletes flee from camp while on duty in Australia according to contingent head Beatrice Ayikoru.
Among them were; weight lifters Irene Kasuubo and Kalidi Batuusa, two boxers; Regan Ssimbwa, Nasir Bashir, a table tennis female player Halima Nambozo and Vienna Ssekanga, a cyclist.
“We handed over the four passports and reported the matter to the Gold Coast boarder Police before returning,” Ayikoru said on return to Uganda.
State Minister of Sports, Charles Bakkabulindi, had earlier the athletes to return to the country as soon as possible, citing he is tired of having athletes from the teams always vanishing when abroad.
“If they do not return, they will never represent Uganda again, , we are going to pout stricter measures on this athletes that disappear when they travel to represent the country, they are giving us a bad image,” he said.
However, the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) group in Sydney said it had received enquiries from a number of African athletes suspected to have disappeared from their teams, but declined to reveal the exact number or the countries of origin.
“Every person who seeks asylum in Australia should be subject to the same thorough investigation of their claims, be they students, visitors, workers or athletes,” RACS solicitor Sarah Dale said in a statement.
“The men, women and families who are recognised as needing protection in Australia are allowed to remain only after a complex and difficult process.”
The athletes’ visas were due to expire at midnight on Tuesday and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned anyone who overstayed would be forcibly removed from the country.
“If people have claims to make, or they have submissions to put to the department, then we’ll consider all of that in due course,” Dutton told reporters Tuesday.
“But if people have breached their visa conditions — like anyone else, they’re expected to operate within the law, and enforcement action will take place to identify those people and to deport them if they don’t self-declare.”
Those seeking to stay in Australia can apply for bridging visas to remain in the country while their claim for asylum is being heard.