Five Afghan athletes and one coach failed to return home last week from Australia after having taken part in the Sydney Invictus Games.
According to the UK’s Telegraph and Australian media, the team, consisting of eight athletes and three coaches, were all due to fly out last week. However six of them failed to arrive at the airport in Sydney to fly home with the rest of the team.
Media reports indicate that the whereabouts of the missing team members is currently unknown but that a volunteer who assisted the Afghan team during the competition believes they 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 the Australian broadcaster SBS.
“They never actually had the intention to stay, they planned to go back, but these 10 days actually changed them, Ramaki said.
According to Australia’s News.com they had been present at last Saturday’s Invictus Games closing ceremony, after a week of events.
Australian media stated however that those who stayed behind — who have not yet been identified publicly — have valid visas to remain in the country until the end of November so no breach has yet occurred.
Ramaki said the six Afghan out of the hotel where the Afghan team was staying but doesn’t know where they are.
News.com quoted Ramaki as saying they speak limited English and most have disabilities. Ramaki said he was “extremely concerned” for their welfare as they also don’t have much money.
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the individuals’ visas had not yet expired.
“The Invictus Games competitors and officials may remain lawfully in Australia until the expiry of their visas,” the spokesperson said.