African athletes committing vanishing acts at the Australian Commonwealth Games have increased to 13, with five more from Uganda and Rwanda also disappearing.
Eight competitors from Cameroon were suspected to have fled on Wednesday, before the confirmation today that athletes from Rwanda and Uganda have also gone into the thin air.
The number of the missing athletes may even go higher as organisers of the game in Gold Coast verify the whereabouts of two squash players from Sierra Leone.
“We’re obviously looking at it very carefully,” Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive David Grevemberg told reporters.
“We have a service to people who have legitimate visas to be in this country,” he added.
“Until it becomes a true issue and somebody has outstayed their visa, or have formally applied for asylum, we just need to continue to monitor the situations.
“The focus now is to support teams in trying to track down the athletes who are missing.”
More than 100 athletes overstayed their visas at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Athlete visas for the Commonwealth Games expire on May 15, Grevemberg said.
Eight athletes from conflict-hit Cameroon — one third of the central African country’s 24-strong team — were said to be missing from the Commonwealth Games on Wednesday, sparking an Australian Border Force manhunt.
As the search continues for Cameroon’s five boxers and three weightlifters, Grevemberg insisted the welfare of the athletes came first.
“We obviously have been in close contact with Cameroon officials,” he said.
“We share their concern regarding obviously the safety, welfare, whereabouts of these athletes.”
Cameroon team manager Victor Agbor Nso told local media he had reported the matter to police on Wednesday.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned that athletes would be forcibly removed from the country if they attempted to overstay their visas.
“They aren’t going to game the system,” he told local radio. “Australian Border Force officers will find these people (and) they’ll be held in immigration detention until they can be deported.”