Afghan Invictus athletes seek asylum in Australia
MORE than half of the Afghan athletes who travelled to Sydney for the Invictus Games have failed to depart the country, with the intention of formally seeking asylum.
According to SBS reports, five athletes and one official did not arrive at the airport to fly home with the rest of the team on Sunday.
Their whereabouts are currently unknown but a volunteer who assisted the Afghanistan contingent during competition believes the six plan to formally seek asylum.
"One of them actually said when he came and saw the people here - basically it was his first time coming out of the country, being in a safe and peaceful environment - that totally changed his perceptions," Mirwais Ramaki told SBS.
"They never actually had the intention to stay, they planned to go back, but these 10 days actually changed them."
A total of eight athletes and three officials arrived in Sydney on October 18 and were due to depart together on Sunday.
They were present at Saturday's Invictus Games closing ceremony, attended by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, after a week of events.
Those who stayed behind - who have not been identified in the media - have valid visas to remain in the country until the end of November so no breach has yet occurred.
Mr Ramaki said the half-dozen checked out of the hotel where the Afghan team was staying and he doesn't know where they are.
They speak limited English and most have disabilities. Mr Ramaki is "extremely concerned" for their welfare as they also don't have much money, he said.
A request for comment has been made with the Department of Home Affairs, Invictus Games officials and the Afghan Embassy in Australia.
Earlier this year when the Commonwealth Games concluded on the Gold Coast in Queensland, some 250 athletes and team support staff refused to leave Australia.
Most sought asylum but an estimated 50 people fled from accommodation and remained on the run for months.
Several months on, a number of those individuals remain in Australia while their applications for asylum or visa extensions are being processed.
In 2006 after the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, 45 competitors from several African nations overstayed their visas or claimed asylum.