Visiting Games athletes put on notice
COMMONWEALTH Games athletes and support staff have been warned they will be kicked out if they break Australian laws, and will be monitored to ensure they leave once the Gold Coast event closes.
A pre-emptive strike has been launched by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton after athletes in the Sydney Olympics and Melbourne Commonwealth Games went on the run, overstayed visas or claimed asylum.
The Home Affairs Department is now working with the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Corporation to ensure athletes fully understand and follow their visa conditions.
Mr Dutton urged athletes and tourists to understand their visa commitments and Australian laws.
"Australia welcomes the thousands of athletes, support staff and sports fans who will travel to the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games,'' Mr Dutton said.
"I'm sure the city, the state and the nation will do all we can to make sure they have a fabulous time.
"However visitors are expected to abide the conditions of their visa and there are penalties for those who do the wrong thing.
"Australia's reputation on being tough on border security and cancelling visas of people who don't abide by Australian laws won't be compromised."
A spokesman told The Courier-Mail yesterday the department would monitor the immigration status of all participants, and take appropriate action if anyone overstayed their visa.
"The department is granting eligible athletes and support staff visas to allow them to travel to Australia and stay for the period of their Games commitments," the spokesman said.
"Only those who receive formal Commonwealth Games accreditation will be eligible to apply for an Australian visa to represent their country at the Games.
"Games accreditation is strictly limited and monitored by the Commonwealth Games Federation."
The spokesman said only a small number of people failed to abide by their visa commitments.
After the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, 45 participants "remained unlawfully" in Australia or applied for protection visas. They included team members from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Bangladesh.
After the Sydney Olympics, about 145 overstayed their visas and 35 applied for asylum.
However, many other host countries have faced similar issues.
Twenty members of the Sierra Leone team went on the run before the end of the competition at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
The Gold Coast event will run from April 4-15. More than 6600 athletes and support staff from 70 Commonwealth nations will compete.
Events will be held at the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville.