Papua New Guinea has asked the Australian government to help it set up a migrant detention centre.
The Immigration Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, made the announcement in Parliament yesterday in response to a question about illegal Chinese immigrants who had escaped custody and gone into hiding
Sir Rabbie says in June 1999, 60 Chinese nationals were apprehended in West New Britain and taken to Lae where they were housed in a Salvation Army Hostel while repatriation arrangements were discussed with Chinese officials.
But all 60 escaped and though 22 were later captured, 38 are still at large.
The minister has told parliament that they had tried to legalise their stay in PNG by corrupting officials.
He says PNG must establish a proper detention centre to house allegedly illegal residents before their status is determined by Immigration officials or by the courts.
Sir Rabbie says if illegal immigrants are held in a detention centre, they can be held for as long as necessary until they are removed from the country.
He says detention without laying charges is provided for under PNG's Immigration Act.