Australia warns athletes not to overstay visas

31 January 2006

Australia has warned overseas athletes and officials that they will be banned from re-entering Australia for three years if they overstay their Commonwealth Games visas.

Authorities are hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2002 Games in Manchester when dozens of athletes from Sierra Leone disappeared.

More than 8,000 special Games visas have been issued for competitors, coaches, team managers, sponsors and broadcasters.

Commonwealth Games participants are free to enter Australia from Feb 15 but must leave by April 26 -- one month after the closing ceremony.

About 80 international participants overstayed visas after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, with a handful of cases yet to be resolved.

A spokesman for the Immigration Department told the "Herald Sun" newspaper it did not anticipate a repeat of the Manchester controversy.

"The overstay rate for the Sydney Olympics was very small -- less than one per cent -- and it is not expected the Commonwealth Games will be any different.

"The department is working closely with the authorities to ensure the Games teams are well aware of our entry arrangements and requirements," the newspaper quoted an immigration officer as saying.