Swimmers Seek Asylum

Swimmers seek asylum

Dewi Cooke
The Age (Melbourne)
June 27, 2007

SEVEN African swimmers who disappeared after the FINA World Swimming Championships in Melbourne have applied for asylum in Australia.

Three competitors and one official from Burundi, two swimmers from the Republic of Congo and one swimmer from Sierra Leone are believed to have lodged asylum applications.

Lawyer David Manne from the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre confirmed that the two Congolese men had made applications for protection.

“It's clear-cut that there are systematic patterns of human rights abuses against citizens in the Congo,” he said. “(But) the men respect the due legal processes in Australia and wish for the due legal process to take its course.”

A community source told The Age that the four Burundians and the Sierra Leone swimmer were making their applications from Sydney. The source said two of the Burundians were girls under 18 who were living with a local Burundian family. All the asylum seekers were on special-purpose visas, which were due to expire this week.

They join the ranks of other athletes who have claimed asylum after competing in Australia, including 40 Commonwealth Games athletes and officials from Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Bangladesh and Tanzania.

Last week The Age also revealed that two Ugandan cricketers, who disappeared after a competition in Darwin early this month, are expected to apply to stay in Australia. Their disappearance sparked outrage in their home country.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said the Ugandans were yet to apply for asylum but that their claim would be looked at if they did.