MELBOURNE, Mar 24 (Reuters) Australia has issued a warning to Commonwealth Games athletes who may be planning to seek asylum as half of the Sierra Leone team was reported missing today.
Police and Games officials said another four athletes from the war-ravaged African country had disappeared since yesterday, bringing the number of Sierra Leoneans to have fled the Games village in suburban Melbourne to 11.
A Tanzanian boxer and a Bangladeshi runner were also reported missing earlier in the week.
Australia Prime Minister John Howard said each case would be handled individually if any of the missing athletes sought asylum and that they would need a ''bona fide reason'' to seek to stay.
''We don't give blanket asylum to people who leave sporting teams in this country,'' Howard told Australian radio.
''I don't want any other athletes who might be thinking along those lines to imagine all you have to do is stay behind and we will keep you. No, it doesn't work that way,'' he said.
Australia has some of the toughest policies in the world against illegal immigration.
The policies include the mandatory detention of illegal arrivals, illegal workers and people who overstay visas in razor-wire detention camps, often for years while their cases are heard.
MORE REUTERS AY PM1431