16 Mar 2005

Officials to discuss options for Nauru's foreign workers

4:34 pm on 16 March 2005

Officials from three countries are to meet informally in Tuvalu over the next several days to discuss how one thousand foreign workers on Nauru can be paid off and go home.

Nationals from Tuvalu and Kiribati worked in the once-thriving Nauru phosphate industry over two decades but have not been paid for a considerable time.

It's understood they won't leave until they're paid by the near-insolvent government.

The deputy secretary-general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Iosefa Maiava, says officials from all three countries who are meeting in Tuvalu from tomorrow will discuss options.

Mr Maiava says the countries are keen to assist repatriation, but money's a difficulty.

He won't estimate at this stage the amount owed, but says he's hoping for progress.

"The next step is to try and come to an agreement on how this can be done -- the repatriation of the workers. And that would include the logistics, the transportation, the settling in, if they're going back to their respective countries, and then, of course, looking at the issue of the outstanding payment."

Iosefa Maiava.