Search for slave boats off PNG turns up nothing

8:40 am on 6 August 2015

The International Organisation for Migration says the hunt for a fleet of boats believed to be crewed by slaves in Papua New Guinea waters has turned up nothing.

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The Blissful Reefer has been detained in Port Moresby Photo:

Last week, PNG authorities detained a Thai-owned refrigeration ship, the Blissful Reefer, and rescued eight crew who were being kept in slave-like conditions.

The IOM says the Blissful Reefer is part of a wider trafficking ring operating in South East Asia, with Indonesian authorities also liberating hundreds of exploited workers.

The IOM's chief of mission in PNG, George Gigauri, says PNG authorities have been searching an area south of PNG known as the 'dog leg' for other vessels which are part of the same ring.

But he says they have proved to be elusive.

"If there were vessels previously they have left that area. You know, given the dynamic nature of the developments and the rescue operation it's quite possible that they could have easily gone back into Indonesian waters or gone into neutral waters, but the fact remains that there are still boats out there with victims of trafficking on board."

The International Organisation for Migration's George Gigauri.