Thu, Apr 12, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Cameroon athletes missing from Games

The Guardian

Five Cameroonian athletes have been reported missing from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village in Australia, with suspicion they have fled with the intention not to return home.

Weightlifter Olivier Matam Matam and boxers Christian Ndzie Tsoye and Simplice Fotsala have been missing since earlier this week, while weightlifters Arcangeline Fouodji Sonkbou and Petit Minkoumba went missing on Tuesday.

All had competed except Tsoye, who failed to show up for his weigh-in for his 91kg quarter-final on Tuesday, granting his opponent a walk-over victory.

Queensland police have been notified of the athletes’ disappearance.

Cameroon team manager Victor Agbor Nso told Australian Broadcasting Corp it was unfortunate for the country and its international image.

“We have officially informed our hierarchy back home: The Ministry of Sports and the president of the National Olympic Committee of Cameroon. We have also laid formal complaint to the Australian police,” he said.

Australian Minister for Commonwealth Games Kate Jones said the Australian federal police were “keeping a watching brief on these athletes.”

“When an athlete comes to Australia to compete in a competition we expect them to front up on the field and compete, so we are disappointed about that,” she said.

Before the Games began, Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton warned that all athletes would be closely monitored to ensure they did not overstay their visas and returned home after competition ended.

“Our message to the 0.5 percent of people who might think they can overstay a visa or not act within the conditions of that visa, is that Australia has very tough laws and they need to abide by the laws,” Dutton said in January.

Cameroon faces entrenched development challenges and widespread poverty. In recent months, 15,000 anglophone separatists have been forced over the border into Nigeria after a crackdown on the campaign for an independent state of Ambazonia.

The country, particularly its northern region, is also vulnerable to food insecurity because of government corruption, poor infrastructure and persistent famines.

Athletes regularly abscond during major sporting events and many subsequently claim asylum. Most hold nationalities that are deemed high-risk by immigration authorities and find it impossible to get visas outside of exceptional events, such as major Games.

Athletes from Cameroon have fled from events before. Following the 2012 London Olympics, at least 21 athletes were reported missing, including seven from Cameroon,and four from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as nationals of Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Sudan and Ethiopia.

After the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, more than 40 athletes and officials overstayed or sought asylum in Australia, including from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Cameroonian weightlifters Francois Etoundi and Simplice Ribouem were both granted refugee status and competed for Australia at the Games this year.

This story has been viewed 1108 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top