10 May 2012

Expelled Australian police advisors leave Vanuatu

3:01 pm on 10 May 2012

More than 20 Australian federal police have left Vanuatu - a day after the foreign minister, Alfred Carlot, ordered their expulsion.

They were asked to leave after Australia failed to apologise for an alleged breach of protocol last month when the Vanuatu prime minister, Sato Kilman, was in transit in Sydney.

The police staff were threatened with arrest today if they failed to comply with the order.

Australia's foreign minister, Bob Carr, had called on Vanuatu to reconsider its decision and warned that Vanuatu would be losing a valuable source of aid if Australian Police were forced to leave.

Mr Carlot says Vanuatu can survive without Australia's assistance, saying it has new donors, such as Indonesia, China and Israel.

When Mr Kilman was in Sydney, one of his advisors was arrested for an alleged tax offence.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is disappointed and concerned that Vanuatu decided to expel the Australian personnel in retaliation for the advisor's arrest.

It has expressed regret that it was necessary to make the arrest during Prime Minister Kilman's transit.

It adds all possible measures were taken to ensure it was carried out in a way that was respectful of Mr Kilman's position.