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|August 23, 2000||
Australia braces for alien invasion
Australian immigration officials are bracing for a possible flood of people, mostly from Asia, using next month's Olympics to try to sneak into the country, officials and media said on Wednesday.
About 110,000 overseas visitors are expected for the Games, but officials said they are worried that others would try to use the Games as an excuse to enter Australia.
Authorities will also be on guard for defections, either by athletes or "official" spectators who have been cleared by their home country to travel overseas.
"The Olympics are going to be a very challenging time because of the large number of people coming through our borders and the desire of our customs and immigration people to expedite things as much as possible," Australian Institute of Criminology director Adam Graycar told The Australian newspaper.
Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock has already made a trip through Asia to ask for help in combatting the expected surge in illegal immigrants.
"The Olympics will pose an increased challenge for us in terms of identifying those who are legitimate visitors as against those who have ulterior motives. We will see an increase in people smuggling around that time," Ruddock told reporters in Singapore last month.
Besides human trafficking by well-known methods such as boats, which has become a huge problem in Australia, officials are worried there will be a jump in people trying to come because they have been told by "snakehead" smugglers that jobs are easy to find because of the Olympics and that once they have successfully landed in Australia they would be allowed to stay.
Australia has seen a surge in illegal immigrants trying to sneak into the country by boat, with a jump to more than 3,700 last year from 200 the year before.
The focus has also shifted from people coming from China, to those from the Middle East and Afghanistan, with most attempting to enter through Indonesia.
International sports events like the Olympics have always attracted people smuggling and defections by athletes from poorer countries.
Japan had a problem when it held the Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994, with athletes from some of the poorer countries in Asia legally entering the country to compete and then staying.
One group of men from the Philippines posed as a volleyball team to try to enter Japan but were caught at the airport by immigration officials who were suspicious because they were too short to be volleyball players.
Olympic officials will also be on the watch for any defections, especially from Cuba.
Talent scouts have followed baseball players from Cuba around the world to try to entice them to defect.
Two from Cuba's junior national team just defected in Canada and 11 athletes left at last summer's Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg, Canada.
Mail Sports Editor
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