14 May 2004

Nauru warns off protestors

3:26 pm on 14 May 2004

The government of Nauru has warned a group of activists who plan to sail to the island that they risk having their vessels confiscated and sold if they enter Nauru's waters.

Radio Australia reports that Nauru's Secretary for Justice, Denzil Seneviratne, says the government has suspended the right of innocent passage under the Law of the Sea Convention and entry into Nauru's territorial waters without a valid visa will be both illegal and highly dangerous.

Members of the Flotilla of Hope plan to leave Sydney tomorrow carrying gifts and messages for the asylum seekers detained on Nauru.

Mr Seneviratne, says illegal immigrants could face a fine of 2,000 US dollars or one year in jail or both.

A statement from Nauru's government warns that Nauru is surrounded by a dangerous reef and shark infested waters.

It warns that Nauru does not have the capability to mount search and rescue operations.

However it suggests it does have the capability to seize vessels entering Nauru waters illegally.

In a statement late today, Mr Seneviratne warned Nauru had suspended the right of innocent passage in the territorial waters of Nauru allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

This allowed Nauru to confiscate and sell the activists' vessels to cover legal costs, he said.

Flotillas of Hope, a mission to carry gifts and messages for asylum seekers, that will leave Sydney on Saturday.

And the Nauru government also warned human rights activists sailing to visit asylum seekers on Nauru that they risked having their vessels confiscated and sold if they tried to enter the nation.