Monday, March 27, 2006


Police catch runaway athletes.

Australian police have detained six athletes from the Sierra Leone team who went missing from the Commonwealth Games village in Melbourne. Eight other Sierra Leone squad members are still unaccounted for, and Cameroon report nine of their athletes missing. They were all hoping to stay in Australia after the Games finished but will now have their visas revoked. The three men and three women from Sierra Leone will be detained until immigration authorities collect them. Immigration officials said they would be happy to talk to the missing athletes if they came forward. Over half of Sierra Leone's 22-strong squad have disappeared, following the 21 who went missing in Manchester four years ago.

Eleven athletes were reported missing to police between last Tuesday and Friday, while another three had disappeared from the athletes village in Melbourne by Sunday. A statement from Games organisers confirmed: "At the request of the management of the Sierra Leone team, the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Corporation has withdrawn accreditation from 14 athletes officially described as missing by Victoria police." An immigration spokesman added: "We strongly urge the athletes, or anyone who knows their whereabouts, to contact local police or their nearest department of immigration office."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has already warned that the country does not give"blanket asylum" to athletes who go missing from sporting teams visiting the country. Australia has some of the toughest policies in the world against illegal immigration. A Tanzanian boxer and a Bangladeshi runner have also gone missing.


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