186 World Youth Day Pilgrims Seek Asylum

186 World Youth Day pilgrims seek asylum

By Adam Gartrell
October 21, 2008 06:04pm

NEARLY 200 pilgrims who came to Australia for World Youth Day have applied for asylum.

Department of Immigration and Citizenship officials said that by the end of September, they had received 186 protection visa applications from people who came for the Catholic event held in Sydney in July.

“About 11 of those applications have so far been refused, and two approved,” department secretary Andrew Metcalfe told a Senate estimates hearing today.

“The others would be currently under consideration.”

A further 31 pilgrims had overstayed their visas, officials said.

“Those folks could be anywhere in Australia,” Mr Metcalfe said.

More than 100,000 people came from overseas for World Youth Day, which culminated in Pope Benedict XVI hosting a papal mass for 400,000 people.

Mr Metcalfe said there had been relatively few asylum-seekers and visa overstayers.

“A 1 per cent overstay rate against our visa programs is regarded as sort of usual, and the fact that so far we have only had 31 people overstay and 186 apply for protection visas actually show a very good result.”