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More than 200 Commonwealth Games Athletes Seek Asylum in Australia and 50 Go Missing

More than 200 Commonwealth Games athletes and officials remain in Australia after applying for refugee visas, with another 50 staying in the country illegally.

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More than 200 Commonwealth Games athletes and officials remain in Australia after applying for refugee visas, with another 50 staying in the country illegally.

The figures were revealed by Immigration Department officials to a Senate committee hearing on Monday night, reports Xinhua news agency.

A total of 8,103 athletes, media representatives and officials arrived in Australia on temporary visas for the Gold Coast event which concluded on April 15, with 7,848 returning home after their stay expired last week, meaning 255 stayed in the country.

Of those who have remained in Australia, 205 were legally in the community on bridging visas as they await approval to stay on a permanent basis. Border Force officials have commenced a nationwide search for the other 50 who have overstayed their visas.

The majority of foreigners seeking asylum in Australia were from war-torn African nations such as Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria. However some members of the Indian and Pakistani teams have also remained in Australia.

Swimmers. Pixabay

Australia’s Department of Home Affairs deputy secretary, Malisa Golightly, told parliament on Monday night that most of the remaining participants “have applied for protection visas”.

“Anybody that is onshore can apply for protection legally once they are here, but of course then they are considered against … the criteria for that visa,” she said.

The temporary protection visas allow the Commonwealth Games participants to stay in Australia for up to three years and receive welfare benefits.

Peter Dutton, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister, said he was disappointed with the number of people who have stayed illegally as they had been welcomed to Australia “in good faith”.

“Australians hate being taken for a ride by freeloaders,” Dutton told Newscorp Australia on Monday night.

Also Read:Indians Among Top Asylum Seekers in the World: International Migration Outlook 2017 Report

“Australia is now obliged under international law to consider these protection visa applications.”

In comparison, only 45 people extended their visas or sought asylum in Australia after the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

–IANS

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Australia Announces Aus$500 Million ($340 Million) Climate Change Package for Pacific Island Countries

The climate-sceptic leader made the announcement before traveling to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Tuvalu

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Australia, Pacific Island, Countries
Traditionally-dressed representatives from South Pacific nations push their canoes into the water as they prepare to participate in a protest aimed at ships leaving the Newcastle coal port, located north of Sydney, Australia, Oct. 17, 2014. VOA

Australia on Tuesday announced a Aus$500 million ($340 million) climate change package for Pacific island countries, which have been increasingly vocal in demanding their powerful neighbor curb its carbon emissions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the funding, drawn from Australia’s existing international aid budget, would help Pacific island nations invest in renewable energy and climate change resilience.

The climate-sceptic leader made the announcement before traveling to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Tuvalu, where island nations threatened by rising seas have vowed to put global warming at the top of the agenda.

Smaller members of the 18-nation grouping have been sharply critical of Australia’s climate policies ahead of this year’s summit amid a diplomatic push from Canberra to counter China’s growing power in the region.

Australia, Pacific Island, Countries
Australia on Tuesday announced a Aus$500 million ($340 million) climate change package for Pacific island countries, which have been increasingly vocal in demanding. Pixabay

High-level representatives from the likes of Tuvalu, Palau and Vanuatu have criticized Australia for not doing enough, with Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama saying Canberra’s reliance on coal poses an “existential threat” to low-lying islands.

There has also been disquiet in the Pacific that Australia recently approved the giant Adani coal mine in Queensland state.

Morrison has staunchly defended Australia’s climate record, insisting the country will meet its 2030 emissions reduction target set under the Paris Agreement.

“The $500 million we’re investing for the Pacific’s renewable energy and its climate change and disaster resilience builds on the $300 million for 2016-2020,” he said in a statement.

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“This highlights our commitment to not just meeting our emissions reduction obligations at home but supporting our neighbors and friends.”

Greenpeace said the package was nothing more than a diversion of funds from Australia’s Pacific aid program and “a slap in the face to regional leaders”.

“This $Aus500 million accounting trick will do nothing to address the cause of the climate crisis that threatens the viability of the entire Pacific,” Greenpeace’s Pacific head Joseph Moeono-Kolio said in a statement.

Australia, Pacific Island, Countries
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the funding, drawn from Australia’s existing international aid budget, would help Pacific island nations invest in renewable energy. Pixabay

The tussle over climate action comes as Australia attempts to reassert its influence in the Pacific through its “step-up” strategy, which some regional leaders have warned is likely to fail without meaningful climate action.

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The PIF summit officially opens late Tuesday and continues until Thursday. (VOA)