24 Dec 2010

Papua New Guineans on protest voyage to Australia being repatriated from tonight

5:13 pm on 24 December 2010

Immigration authorities in Australia say a group of Papua New Guinea people campaigning for Australian citizenship has shown a blatant disregard for the country's laws.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship intercepted a flotilla of 11 boats carrying 119 people from PNG's Western Province crossing Torres Strait from Daru island yesterday in a bid to reach mainland Australia.

The department's spokesperson, Sandi Logan, says the interception, detention and repatriation of the people belonging to the Papuan Australian Plaintiff United Affiliates group will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He says it was a foolhardy endeavour that's put people's lives at risk.

"In the six or seven hour voyage at sea with many young children involved and at the end of the day this is an unlawful entry, they will be detained and they will be turned around forthwith, their boats have been seized and confiscated, they will not be returned and as we've said to any other supporters of this group contemplating such an endeavor from Daru, don't waste your time and don't lose your boats."

But the mayor of Torres Shire Council says people living in third or fourth world conditions in Western Province have stood by and watched the infrastucture developments on neighbouring islands that remained part of Australia at independence in 1975.

Pedro Stephen says he's travelled the length of Western Province's Fly River and the people have legitimate grievances.

And in some areas it's chaos and I think that if those families in the Western Province like any families elsewhere have their priority about their children and the safety of their children, they would actually make this type of movement.

Pedro Stephen says it's time the Australian authorities treated the concerns of Western Province people seriously.

Flights begin tonight to return the Papua New Guineans on Horn Island home.