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AWOL: Missing Cameroonian Athletes to Seek Asylum, Again?

Queensland  -  Six men and two women, which is one-third of the 24 athletes Cameroon sent to the Gold Coat Games, had gone missing, Team Ca...

Queensland - Six men and two women, which is one-third of the 24 athletes Cameroon sent to the Gold Coat Games, had gone missing, Team Cameroon chef de mission Victor Agbor Nso said in a statement - and it is not the first time to happen. 

In 2006, more than 40 athletes and officials who participated in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne overstayed or sought asylum in Australia, including from the African countries of Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Cameroon weightlifters Francois Etoundi and Simplice Ribouem both received refugee status, and were in the 2018 Australian team. Before the start of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned athletes would be monitored to ensure they did not go on the run or outstay visas.

One of the boxers, Christian Ndzie Tsoye, was due to fight Nyika on Tuesday, but failed to weigh in. Nyika got a walkover into the semifinals - and a guaranteed medal.

"The Cameroon Commonwealth team is sad to announce that eight of the 24 athletes they took to the 21st Commonwealth Games in [the] Gold Coast ... are missing from their respective rooms in the Games village," Nso said.
Commonwealth 2018 Games 

"These athletes left in three waves — first in the night of April 8 three athletes departed from the village. Then on [April 9] two others were declared missing and last night three others left their rooms."

Nso said Cameroon team officials had notified the Australian police, as well as state officials back in Cameroon.

"In the meantime, the other two weightlifters of the delegation, along with the basketball players and officials, have already left Australia and are presently airborne for Cameroon," he said.

Queensland Commonwealth Games Minister Kate Jones said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were involved, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

"They are keeping a watching brief on these athletes. When an athlete comes to Australia to compete in a competition we expect them to front-up on the field and compete, so we are disappointed about that."

Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive David Grevemberg said the missing athletes had not broken any laws at this stage and it was a matter for Cameroon team officials. "These athletes are guests here in Australia. They are still within their visas, they have the right to travel freely," he told the ABC.

When five of the athletes had been reported missing, Cameroon press attache Simon Molombe said it was a concern.

"[We have] no other information, nobody knows where they went. Nobody said anything, they did not give any condition, they just left. We imagine they went away wilfully. How can you go back without people you came here with?" he asked.

"It's very worrying, it's not good for the image of the country. It is not the first time Cameroonian athletes have gone missing. In 2012, seven athletes from Cameroon were reported missing from the London Olympic Games.

A spokesman for the Australian Border Force said the federal government was working closely with the Games organising committee and international stakeholders to ensure officials and athletes were aware of their visa responsibilities.

"Like other visitors to Australia, Commonwealth Games visitors who hold a valid visa are free to enjoy their stay in Australia," he said.

"However, Commonwealth Games visitors who do not meet their visa requirements can expect to have their visas cancelled." The spokesman said the department did not comment on individual cases. - Stuff

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