28 Feb 2005

PNG fisheries minister denies arrest or deportation of Chinese fishing crews

3:37 pm on 28 February 2005

Papua New Guinea's fisheries minister, Ben Semri, denies that the government has agreed to deport Chinese fishermen allegedly arrested Milne Bay Province.

Last week, the Milne Bay governor, Tim Neville, said the government agreed to deport more than 300 Chinese nationals who were on board 20 fishing vessels arrested in his province.

Mr Neville said the vessels were impounded under the Fisheries Act for not having licenses to fish or permits to be in Milne Bay.

But Mr Semri says the vessels were part of a legitimate trial under an arrangement between the government and Beijing which was reached before he was a minister.

And he denies knowledge of any arrests.

"Papua New Guinea government is not aware of the arrests of the Chinese fishermen. The government has never agreed, and I repeat, the government has never agreed to deport the Chinese fishermen, and they've not been deported."

PNG fisheries minister, Ben Semri.