They were meant to have boarded a plane to Egypt more than two weeks ago.
But questions have now been raised about the whereabouts of seven Egyptian sailors who were allowed to fly home after an industrial dispute aboard their ship, the Wadi Alkarm, in Port Kembla earlier this month.
On September 11, the men were told the company they were working for, Egyptian government-owned National Navigation Co, had bought them plane tickets and paid their entitlements.
The move ended nearly a week of industrial action during which the striking men accused the company of threatening their families in Egypt.
Maritime Union of Australia Southern NSW Branch secretary Gary Keane, who was heavily involved in negotiations to have the men paid, said he had been surprised to learn the sailors may not have boarded their plane home.
"The last we saw of them they got in the car and were heading to the airport," he said.
"I had asked if anything went wrong that Customs give us a call."
When Mr Keane heard nothing, he assumed all was well. But days later, a rumour emerged suggesting Customs officers had not met the men at Sydney Airport, and they had been allowed to simply walk in one door and out the other.
When he inquired with the Wadi Alkarm's captain, who was stationed in Port Kembla until September 18, the captain told Mr Keane it was believed the men had not returned home.
Mr Keane then followed up the matter with the Immigration Department, which told him it was unable to comment.
Until now, all of the Mercury's inquiries relating to the sailors have been dealt with by the Immigration Department.
However when the Mercury contacted the department yesterday, it was told inquiries had been passed on to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.
Despite multiple phone calls to both Mr Morrison's office and his media officer, the Mercury failed to receive a response.
When the sailors first went on strike, the Immigration Department denied them maritime visas amid fears they would disappear into the community.
Port Kembla Mission to Seafarers pastoral carer John Kewa, who provided food and basic necessities to the sailors, said he too had heard the men had not made the plane.
He said the Egyptian sailors had opened up to him in his time with them in Port Kembla, and had expressed concern they would be prosecuted if they returned home.
"They were gesturing they would be put in handcuffs," Mr Kewa said.
In a further twist to the saga, Mr Keane said National Navigation Co had been forced to hire two Australian sailors to fulfil its minimum crew requirements before departing on September 18. It is understood the company was paying close to $300 an hour for moorage in Port Kembla.
"I really don't understand why it was in port for so long," Mr Keane said.
"Whether they got on board [the plane] or not doesn't diminish from the original issues on the vessel.
"The original issues were undeniable and haven't been denied by the company."