6 Jul 2004

Tuvalu and Kiribati call for Pacific action over plight their workers trapped on Nauru

8:20 pm on 6 July 2004

The financial collapse in Nauru and the plight of hundreds of its workers could overshadow next month's Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Samoa.

The French news agency, AFP, quotes an unnamed diplomat saying the Forum might be called on to tackle the Nauru issue.

The island has been battling to stave off bankruptcy after the giant US financier, General Electric Corporation, moved to collect a debt of 165 million US dollars.

There are also concerns about the way the several thousand foreign workers on the island are being treated.

Most of the workers are from Kiribati and Tuvalu and they are owed over two million US dollars in wages.

The Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Saufatu Sopo'aga, has told AFP that it looks like Nauru is treating his people there as slaves.

Kiribati's President, Anote Tong, says his people on Nauru are facing the same problems and his government has just sent a delegation to the island.

Mr Sopo'aga says he has already raised the issue with the Forum's chairwoman, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, and he will raise it again if no action is taken.

And Mr Tong says "we should not just stand by and let it happen. I think we should try to find a solution."