Eight Cameroon athletes, including three weightlifters and five boxers, have gone missing from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Village, with some failing to turn up to their competition events this week.
Team Cameroon chef de mission Victor Agbor Nso released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, confirming six men and two women from the 40-strong team were missing.
“The Cameroon Commonwealth team is sad to announce that eight … athletes they took to the 21st Commonwealth Games in [the] Gold Coast … are missing from their respective rooms in the Games village,” he said.
“These athletes left in three waves — first in the night of April 8 three athletes departed from the village.
“Then on [April 9] two others were declared missing and last night three others left their rooms.
“These athletes, three weightlifters and five boxers, were part of the team that had a training camp in Warwick before getting to [the] Gold Coast.”
Queensland Commonwealth Games Minister Kate Jones said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were involved.
“They are keeping a watching brief on these athletes,” she said.
“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.”
Mr Nso said Cameroon team officials had notified the Australian police of the situation, as well as state officials back in Cameroon.
“In the meantime, the other two weightlifters of the delegation, along with the basketball players and officials, have already left Australia and are presently airborne for Cameroon,” he said.
Cameroon’s track and field, badminton and wrestling athletes are still competing on the Gold Coast.
The Commonwealth Games Federation said the missing athletes had not broken any laws at this stage.
Federation chief executive David Grevemberg said it was a matter for Cameroon team officials.
“These athletes are guests here in Australia. They are still within their visas, they have the right to travel freely,” he said.
“It’s obviously disappointing that I think some of the athletes that have come didn’t compete as they were scheduled to compete.
“The safety and welfare of those athletes from the Team Cameroon perspective is being taken very, very seriously, but we are obviously monitoring that situation with Team Cameroon.”
Games chairman Peter Beattie encouraged athletes to stick to their visa guidelines.
“In terms of the athletes I’d just simply say enjoy Australia while you’re here this includes Cameroon, or any other athletes, stay within the law and be mindful of the fact there is a system in place in this country,” he said.
“Those issues are not a matter for me, we are running a sporting event, what we are simply saying is that we are encouraging people to stick within the visas issued by the Federal Government.”
Before the Commonwealth Games began Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned athletes not to overstay their visas.
“Our message to the 0.5 per cent 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,” Mr Dutton said in January.
This was not the first time athletes from the small African nation had gone missing at an international sporting event.
Seven left the athletes village during the London Olympic Games in 2012.
After the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, 26 athletes and officials sought asylum in Australia.
Fourteen were athletes from Sierra Leone, who disappeared from the Games village during competition but later handed themselves over to immigration officials.
The ABC has contacted the Immigration Minister’s office and the AFP for comment.