30 Oct 2003

Australian fishermen forced out of PNG

11:04 am on 30 October 2003

Australian officials say a business dispute appears to be behind a group of fishermen being forced to leave Papua New Guinea at gunpoint.

An Australian Foreign Affairs spokesman says the Australian fishermen were forced to board chartered planes bound for Horn island in the Torres Strait, after their boats were stormed in what appeared to be a military operation.

The fishermen say their four fishing boats were boarded near Daru, in the remote Western Province, by what appeared to be soldiers and government officials.

They say they were forced to open a safe, containing thousands of dollars, and were then required to leave for Australia immiediately.

PNG's Fisheries and Immigration Ministers have told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation they are unaware of any operations in the area, but say they will seek further information today.

The Foreign affairs spokesman says the events appear to be the result of a dispute between partners in a joint fishing venture.