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September 14, 2000
Illicit aliens flop in ticket scam
Hundreds of would-be illegal immigrants have tried -- and failed -- to use tickets bought for the Olympic Games as a cover to get into Australia, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said on Thursday.
He said that in two countries in eastern Europe, some people had even tried to pass themselves off as athletes and officials going to the Sydney Games to try to get visas.
"In one case, eight people said they were representing their country in a martial arts event at the Olympics. The country concerned didn't even have a federation for that particular martial art," the spokesman told Reuters.
The spokesman did not disclose the countries concerned.
He said about 60 people in Syria had also fallen victim to a confidence trickster who had told them he had packages of Olympic tickets and Australian visas that would guarantee them a passport to a better life Down Under.
"They paid the conman up front about $200,000," the spokesman said. "He had nothing except the people's money."
Official accreditation to the Sydney Games, which open on Friday, serves as a tourist visa to Australia for the 40,000 athletes, officials and journalists who have flooded in for the 17-day Olympics.
Foreign visitors who buy event tickets abroad need to apply separately for tourist visas through Australian consular offices before starting out on their journey.
Ruddock's spokesman said a number "in the low hundreds" of suspected would-be illegal immigrants had bought lower price tickets to Games events and tried to get visas by filing bogus claims about their means of support in visa applications.
They had been denied visas as a result, the spokesman said.
"Buying a ticket to the Olympics does not give anyone a visa," the spokesman said. "What we're looking for are bona fide visitors who will come to Sydney to enjoy the Games, have a good time and then go home."
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