A Commonwealth Games athlete who went missing during the Gold Coast event this year brazenly posted images of himself while in Melbourne to social media last month.
Cameroonian boxer Fotsala Simplice is one of more than 19 athletes and team staff who went missing from the Games last month and are now seeking asylum in Australia, according to refugee advocates.
Despite threats of detention from Federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton should the athletes not comply with their visa conditions, Simplice openly shared images of him smiling and posing while in Melbourne.
Initially, it was believed 11 athletes had not returned home, including four other boxers and three wrestlers from Cameroon, two athletes from Uganda and a Rwandan Paralympic powerlifting coach.
This week however, Sydney’s Refugee Advice and Casework Service principal solicitor Sarah Dale said the organisation has helped more than 19 people lodge applications for protection, before their federally approved games visas expired on Tuesday.
“The numbers we have seen have been greater than that (19) and it’s our expectation that there are significantly more people in the community that have sought asylum here in Australia,” she told ABC radio on Wednesday.
The competitors are seeking asylum for various reasons and are from several different African countries, Ms Dale confirmed.
The federal government has already said “some” of those who went missing have already seen granted bridging visas to allow them to stay.
The applicants will need to demonstrate they fear persecution, whether it be on religious, race, nationality, social group or political affiliation grounds.
The Australian Border Force said in a statement that any “visa overstayers” who do not cooperate with authorities to negotiate new visa conditions risk facing “enforcement measures”.
“Some individuals have already applied for other visas, while others will seek to engage Australia’s protection obligations. Those cases will be rigorously assessed in line with standard processes,” a statement said.
“For those who attempt to remain in the community without engaging with authorities, they should be aware that anyone in Australia without a valid visa will be subject to enforcement measures aimed at locating, detaining and removing them from Australia.
“The ABF has stood up a dedicated operation to ensure those that should depart Australia do so. Those who are removed may also face a three year re-entry ban from Australia and may owe a debt to the Australian Government for the cost of their removal.”
Before the expiration of the visas the athletes held to be able to perform in the Commonwealth Games, Mr Dutton also confirmed they would need to leave Australia or risk a detention term.
“If they don’t want to be held in detention or locked up at the local watch house, they’d better jump on a plane before the 15th and comply with their visa’s conditions,” he told Macquarie Radio.
Ms Dale also hosed down suggestions the claimants planned to come to Australia as part of a games team and then stay.
“I would not suggest that there was a group of people that had decided ‘let’s compete in the Commonwealth Games to get to Australia’,” Ms Dale said.
“I think that’s too far of a stretch.”