8 Jun 2005

Tuvalu says diplomatic ties key to Taiwan request

8:08 pm on 8 June 2005

Tuvalu says Taiwan may be willing to help fund the repatriation of workers from Nauru to Kiribati and Tuvalu because of diplomatic recognition and ties between all countries involved.

Hundreds of former phosphate workers and their families from Kiribati and Tuvalu have been on Nauru for years, unable to return home until they receive unpaid wages and other expenses.

The Tuvalu Prime Minister, Maata Toafa, says Kiribati and Tuvalu have asked Taiwan to consider helping fund the repatriation, which is beyond Nauru's means.

He says Nauru and the Pacific Islands Forum estimate the amount owed at three point five million US dollars.

Mr Toafa says he hopes for a decision soon from Taiwan, and if it agrees the Forum Secretariat would disberse the money.

He says if Taiwan agrees, it will be because it's good friends with Tuvalu, which has recognised Taiwan for 26 years, as well as with Kiribati and Nauru.

"Nauru has now shifted back to Taiwan, you know, to patch up on that bilateral relation. So I think it's more of good will, as good friends, the way I see it."

Tuvalu Prime Minister, Maata Toafa