On Tuesday, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced that police forces are currently searching for 50 athletes and officials who disappeared after the Commonwealth Games in April.
The games, which took place in the Gold Coast between April 4 and April 15, involved 71 national teams. According to Reuters, 190 additional athletes legally sought asylum, applying for protection visas, while 15 other athletes applied for business visas, also legally.
However, after the games 50 athletes disappeared in an alleged attempt to escape returning to their home country.
Dutton expressed his dismay over the athletes’ decision to remain in Australia illegally, adding that the plan was to “take them into immigration detention and eventually to deport them”.
In the first week of the games, a third of Cameroon’s team members disappeared. On April 11 Simon Molombe, who is Cameroon’s team attaché, told CNN that the missing athletes most likely would not return.
“I don’t think they will be back,” he said.
In the past, many athletes have sought asylum or disappeared after Commonwealth Games, but this year, Reuters reports, there are more athletes to do so. According to CNN, Australia has a history with Commonwealth disappearances. In 2006, 25 delegates went missing and in 2000, 80 athletes remained in the country after their visas expired.
In the past, Minister Dutton has been under fire for remarks regarding immigration. In a February interview with Australian radio station 2GB, Dutton remarked that it was in Australia’s “national interest” to limit the amount of immigrants entering into the country who would “be a burden”.
“I am concerned that the level of legal migration … is in excess of the capacities of our cities to absorb, both culturally or in terms of infrastructure,” Dutton said in the interview, according to The Guardian.
Additionally, Dutton was condemned after making racist comments in March, stating that Australia “should open its arms to white farmers in South Africa facing ‘persecution’ at the hands of a black majority government”.
The Commonwealth Games’ purpose is to “unite the Commonwealth’s athletes, citizens and communities through the transformative and connecting power of sport.” More than 6600 athletes attended the games this year.