Nearly 200 people who arrived in Australia to attend the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast have officially applied for protection visas which come as a larger chunk than predicted previously. During the Senate Estimates committee in Canberra, immigration officials said that around 250 people were still in Australia after the games had ended despite the fact their visas had officially expired.
The Department of Home Affairs has said that of the 250, 190 have applied for protection visas. Allegedly there are around another 50 people unaccounted for while “10 to 15” have applied for different kinds of visas.
As of last month, athletes from a variety of nations left the Commonwealth Games village on Queensland’s Gold Coast. However, advocates for refugee resettlement have already been working with visa applicants and have stated that the Government agreed to “fast-track” some of their applications.
The Department of Home Affairs has stated that it would try to get through the visa applications as quickly as it could but was unable to make any guarantees on timescale.
Last week Peter Dutton, The Minister for Home Affairs, said that in general “about half a per cent” of the people who come to Australia for major sporting events would end up overstaying their visas. However, the cohort from the Commonwealth Games is much larger with about 3% of the total visitors overstaying their visas.
As a comparison, in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games only 45 people overstayed their visas or applied for asylum.
A member of the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, Sarah Dale, said that the Government was already in the process of reviewing some of the protection visa applications. She went on to say that some of the people who applied for protection visas feared persecution for their sexuality in their home countries.
She highlighted that it was “criminalised to be homosexual” in many Commonwealth countries that participated in the games and that it was likely many would be granted the protection visas.