Commonwealth Games 2018: Australia grants nearly 200 people seeking protection bridging visas

By @chelean on
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - Closing Ceremony - Carrara Stadium - Gold Coast, Australia - April 15, 2018. Fans attend the closing ceremony.
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - Closing Ceremony - Carrara Stadium - Gold Coast, Australia - April 15, 2018. Fans attend the closing ceremony. Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

Almost 200 athletes and officials who attended the Commonwealth Games have been granted bridging visas while the Australian government is considering their application for refugee visas. The Department of Home Affairs told a Senate Estimates that there were about 250 people who came to the country for the Games have not left yet.

About 190 of those people had already applied for protection visas. Fifty of the estimated 250 people had not been in touch with authorities and therefore in the country illegally. “Around 10 to 15” others had applied for other types of visas, Malisa Golightly, Home Affairs deputy secretary, told senators in Canberra on Monday.

Out of the 8,013 people who arrived in Australia for the Games on the Gold Coast last month, only 7,848 people had left. The number exceeds early expectations when it was believed that only 11 participants did not leave the country after the event concluded on April 15.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the processing cost of the claims will run into millions of dollars. This would be shouldered by the Australian people. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said even those who are on bridging visas would benefit from the taxpayers.

“If you’re on a bridging visa, there can be benefits, including welfare available, and some of the cases can go on for a period of time,” he told Today. “This is one of the great frustrations that I have. We have an incredibly generous legal system in terms of the ways in which people can apply. They can appeal, they can delay and it can go on and on.”

The last time Australia hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2006 in Melbourne, there were 45 people who overstayed or claimed asylum. Most of the people who applied for protection visas this year were from African nations.