The XXI Commonwealth Games, the international multi-sport competition for member countries in the Commonwealth of Nations (comprising the United Kingdom and its now-independent territories) currently being held at Gold Coast, Queensland in Australia, is only three days away from its closing ceremony. And it is now becoming quite clear that there is a problem skulking underneath the highlights of the event, particularly when it comes to some of its participating athletes. Shortly after settling down in the Gold Coast Athlete’s Village, a number of Commonwealth Games competitors have suddenly vanished from the public eye, mostly from several nations in Africa.
ABC News Australia has it that the Commonwealth Games Federation, the governing body for this athletic meet, confirmed the disappearance of athletes from at least three African countries: Uganda, Rwanda and Cameroon, the lattermost of which actually lost one-third of its complement of Commonwealth Games contestants. The number of missing athletes thus far is at 11 according to CGF CEO David Grevemberg. Regarding this chain of disappearances, the Refugee Council of Australia opines that the athletes in question may be hoping to get to the country as refugees in order to escape conditions violating human rights in their home countries.
This is not the only issue the 2018 Commonwealth Games is trying to get a handle on right now. While the 11 missing athletes may have jumped the gun towards seeking asylum, other people who have come to the Gold Coast for the games are taking official channels towards being allowed to stay on in Australia even after the end of competition. Over 40 individuals, ranging from more athletes, their support crews and even journalists covering the event have visited Australia’s Ready Migration agency, making inquiries towards visa applications for extended stays, their Commonwealth Games visas expiring on May 15.
With regards to the possibility of the missing athletes being able to claim asylum should they reappear in public, Refugee Council CEO Paul Power remarks that it would still be dependent on the personal circumstances of each individual would-be refugee. This would entail a fear of proven persecution in their home countries in terms of social, ethnicity, or politico-religious beliefs. Meanwhile, Ready Migration administrator Jim MacAnally noted the diversity of the athletes and other people who have inquired for visas at their agency, with many also from Africa. Cameroon’s team attaché feels certain that his teammates will not return home.
Australia has had the burden several times before, of athletes competing in multi-national events held on their home soil leaving their delegations to stay. It happened at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The current Commonwealth Games will have its closing ceremony April 15.
Photo courtesy of ABC News