AWOL African athletes have visas to stay

Tracey Ferrier, Ed Jackson and Rachel Gray
Eleven African athletes and officials went missing during the Gold Coast Games last month

Some of the 11 African athletes who went missing during the Commonwealth Games have been given bridging visas to stay in Australia temporarily.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has urged the competitors to give themselves up with the visas they were issued for the Gold Coast Games due to expire at midnight on Tuesday.

But the head of a service that helps refugees migrate to Australia says some of the 11 have already got bridging visas.

"I know some of them have already had interviews with immigration," said David Addington, the chairman of Sydney's Northern Beaches Refugee Sanctuary.

"I know that some of them have already been given bridging visas ... so you don't get detained."

Mr Addington was not personally involved in the athletes' cases but said he'd spoken to advocates who were.

Refugee Advice and Casework Service principal solicitor Sarah Dale told AAP her Sydney legal centre has helped a number of the athletes lodge applications for protection before their Games visas expire.

"We have spoken and assisted a number of people who were involved with the Commonwealth Games most of whom are from the African region," Ms Dale said on Tuesday afternoon.

When an individual lodges an application to stay in Australia they are usually granted a bridging visa until the government determines whether they are owed protection as refugees.

But Mr Dutton's office on Tuesday refused to say if any of the athletes had bridging visas.

He urged them to present themselves to Australian Border Force officers.

"If people have breached their visa conditions ... enforcement action will take place to identify those people and to deport them if they don't self-declare," Mr Dutton said in Melbourne.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson says the athletes shouldn't be allowed to stay.

"I don't believe they have sound grounds. They came here as athletes and they pulled this stunt," she told AAP.

"They are being fed these lines by these migration agents and by refugee advocates in this country, telling them what to say and what to do."

The missing athletes include five boxers and three wrestlers from Cameroon, two athletes from Uganda and a Rwandan Paralympic powerlifting coach.