Uganda government urges missing athletes to return home as Australian visas expire

Uganda's government has urged their six athletes who went missing during the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast to return home, as their visas have expired and they face potential deportation if found by authorities in Australia.

In April, during the course of the multi-sport event, 11 competitors from various African countries disappeared from the athletes' village, some in
the middle of the night.

Reports this week indicated that some of the 11 had been granted bridging visas to stay in Australia, though the athletes were not named so it is unknown whether some, or indeed all, are Ugandan.

The six Ugandan athletes who are unaccounted for are two weightlifters, Irene Kasubo and Kalidi Batuusa, two boxers, Regan Ssimbwa and Nasir Bashir, table tennis player Halima Nambozo, and cyclist Vienna Ssekanga.

Uganda's minister for sport, Charles Bakkabulindi, has urged the missing six to hand themselves in to authorities, even if they have bridging visas, and called the situation a 'shame' on his country's reputation.

"Since their visas expired on May 15th, the government of Australia should look for them and put them on the next flights back home if they cannot come back by themselves," Bakkabulindi told KweséESPN.

"These athletes who vanish in other countries bring us shame as a country. We invest a lot in developing them and instead they get out there and disappear."

Bakkabulindi took a tough stance on the matter, and said that athletes who wanted to move to another country had the option of doing so via official channels: "We need to become very tough with this issue of vanishing of athletes because we cannot continue like this.

"These athletes should know that they can make moves to Europe through proper channels with blessings from their mother associations."

Beatrice Ayikoru, the team's chef de mission at the Games, said the two weightlifters vanished with their passports, but the other four left their passports behind.

"We handed over the passports to the border security in Gold Coast," Ayikoru confirmed.

While the reasons for the athletes' disappearances can only be speculated about, Australia's Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has warned those athletes without valid visas that they could be deported for breaching travel conditions if they do not self-declare.



ESPN

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