4 Mar 2011

PNG group plans illegal crossing to Australia in citizenship bid

5:06 pm on 4 March 2011

Hundreds of Papua New Guineans are preparing to illegally cross Torres Strait to Cape York in a bid to press their claims for Australian citizenship.

The newspaper, The Australian, reports that Australian Immigration Department officials have confirmed the group's movements had been monitored in recent weeks as they raised funds and boats and marshalled passengers for the voyage, planned for later this month.

But officials in PNG and Australia are reported to be powerless to stop the protest, which followed the interception of a flotilla of boats carrying 119 PNG citizens off Queensland in December.

The protesters, who call themselves Australian Papuans, made the trip aboard 16 banana boats from Daru Island as they ramped up a decade-long fight for citizenship.

The group's leader, Jonathan Baure, has for ten years been seeking recognition that the people from the former Australian territory of Papua were not given the choice to remain Australian when PNG gained independence in 1975.