However, 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.”

The African athletes who have gone missing at the Commonwealth Games in Australia have not broken any laws, but face a difficult road if they seek asylum.

Mr Addington was not personally involved in the athletes’ cases but said he’d spoken to advocates who were. African athletes have previously been granted visas in both Australia and Great Britain following other Commonwealth Games.

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.

Rather, 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.

Athletes known to have gone missing include five boxers and three wrestlers from Cameroon, two athletes from Uganda and a Rwandan Paralympic powerlifting coach.