27 Feb 2006

Tuvalu hopes Fiji meeting will settle repatriation woes

4:36 pm on 27 February 2006

Tuvalu's Prime Minister says he hopes a meeting in Fiji tomorrow will finalise who is funding the repatriation of Tuvaluan and I-Kiribati workers stranded on Nauru.

Representatives from the governments of Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru, the International Organisation for Migration and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat will meet in Suva to thrash out the issue.

Several hundred mainly phosphate company workers and their families are stuck on Nauru, waiting for outstanding wages and sponsorship to pay for their return home.

Tuvalu's Prime Minister, Maatia Toafa, says he believes Australia and New Zealand will foot some of the bill and is keen for a solution.

"We expect the outcome of the meeting to sort of confirm the funding or to meet the costs for the repatriation process."

Mr Toafa says it would cost more than half a million New Zealand dollars to ship his people home, provided they used a Tuvaluan vessel.