Australia warns Commonwealth athletes not to overstay visas

Australia on Tuesday warned athletes planning to compete in the Commonwealth Games this April that anyone caught overstaying their visas after the event will be dealt with firmly.

The warning, two months before athletes and support staff from around the world flood to the Gold Coast for the Games, comes after scores of athletes breached their visa conditions or applied for asylum at previous major sporting events in Australia.

“Australia’s reputation of being tough on border security and cancelling visas of people who don’t abide by Australian laws won’t be compromised,” said Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

“I’m sure the city, the state and the nation will do all we can to make sure they have a fabulous time,” he told Brisbane’s Courier Mail newspaper of the visiting athletes.

“However visitors are expected to abide the conditions of their visa and there are penalties for those who do the wrong thing.”

Australia has previously hosted the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, after both of which it experienced problems with athletes overstaying.

In 2006, some 45 participants at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games from countries including Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Bangladesh breached their visa conditions or applied for protection visas, the Courier reported.

Close to 145 people overstayed their visa following the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the newspaper said, with 35 applying for asylum. 

Canberra has tough immigration policies designed to deter a flow of refugees to the country.

Hundreds of asylum-seekers who tried to reach Australia by boat in recent years have been detained in remote Pacific Island camps.

Border protection authorities have also accelerated the deportation of foreign-born criminals since immigration laws were toughened in 2014. 

The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held in Australia’s Gold Coast in the country’s northeast from April 4 to 15, with thousands of athletes and support staff due to attend.

© Agence France-Presse

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