Games fugitives still running for their lives

HUNDREDS of athletes and officials who did a runner after last year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games are fighting to stay in Australia after their refugee claims were rejected by the Morrison Government.

Exclusive documents obtained by The Courier-Mail also show more than a dozen are still on the run and unaccounted for.

Why Commonwealth Games refugees want to stay

More than 200 mainly African athletes and officials are fighting for asylum in Australia. Picture: Mark Schiefelbein
More than 200 mainly African athletes and officials are fighting for asylum in Australia. Picture: Mark Schiefelbein

More than 200 mainly African athletes and officials - including a third of the Cameroonian team - tried to seek asylum or simply disappeared during and after the April 2018 Games.

Now, Department of Home Affairs documents obtained under Freedom of Information by The Courier-Mail have revealed their fates.

The documents disclose that a total of 230 Games athletes and officials lodged applications for protection visas but 217 have had their asylum bids knocked back.

Of these, 204 have lodged appeals with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal while another four have had their appeals dismissed, with taxpayers footing an estimated bill of at least $2 million throughout the ordeal so far.

A total of six Games athletes and officials have already been sent home and one remains in immigration detention. The department is currently assessing another nine protection visa applications from Games participants.

Home Affairs documents reveal that as of May this year, there were 17 'unlawful non-citizens' who took part in the Coast Games still in Australia - 14 from Ghana and three from Rwanda.

Thirteen of them were still on the run while four were in immigration detention.

It costs almost $350,000 a year to keep a single asylum seeker in detention and more than $103,000 to keep them in the community or $10,221 to process a person in the community, according to a Refugee Council of Australia report released this year.

Among the athletes and officials to disappear during the Games was Rwanda's weightlifting coach who vanished during a toilet break at Carrara Stadium.

Before the Games, Rwanda's Sports Minister warned the country's Games representative not to try 'escaping on national duty' or it would be treated as an act of treason.

Cameroonian weightlifter Petit David Minkoumba disappeared after the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Cameroonian weightlifter Petit David Minkoumba disappeared after the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

One third of the Cameroonian delegation disappeared, including weightlifters Olivier Matam Matam, Arcangeline Fouodji Sonkbou and Petit Minkoumba, as well as boxers Ndzie Tchoyi, Simplice Fotsala, Fokou Arsene, Christelle Ndiang and Yombo Ulrich.

Some athletes failed to even show up for competition, prompting a warning from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that they would be tracked down and deported.

Games officials made a plea to Gold Coast residents to keep an eye out on the streets of the Glitter Strip for runaway athletes.

"They aren't going to game the system," he said at the time. They aren't going to stay here. The Australian Border Force officers will find these people and they will be held in immigration detention until they can be deported."

Only 40 athletes and officials overstayed their visas after the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games while about 100 stayed illegally after the 2000 Sydney Olympics.


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