5 Aug 2009

Officials unable to stop sick people from PNG crossing into Australia says report

10:19 am on 5 August 2009

The Australian newspaper reports that the threat of diseases spreading from Papua New Guinea into Australia has become so profound that authorities are no longer trying to stop sick people illegally crossing the border to the Torres Strait islands.

It reports that instead they are trying to rework immigration laws so health professionals can move just as freely in the region to confront the problem.

On the eve of the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns, the newspaper says the Australian Government is examining options to mitigate the risk of HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases being spread by PNG nationals who cross the border for treatment.

The free movement provisions of the Torres Strait Treaty do not extend to PNG nationals entering Australian territory to receive medical attention, but the paper says thousands do so each year.

The major concern is the threat of the spread of multi-drug-resistant TB with about one in five attending PNG nationals suffering from the disease.