9 Jun 2005

Tuvalu hopes for swift response over plight of its workers on Nauru

10:45 am on 9 June 2005

Tuvalu's Prime Minister, Maatia Toafa, says he hopes for a swift response from its long-time diplomatic friend Taiwan, on whether it'll help fund a solution for workers stranded on Nauru.

Hundreds of people from Kiribati and Tuvalu have been on Nauru for years, unable to return home until they receive unpaid wages and other expenses... money Nauru can't afford.

Mr Toafa says Taiwan has indicated it may be willing to agree to a joint request from Kiribati and Tuvalu, and he's hoping it'll let the countries know the outcome soon.

"In fact, I followed that up during my recent State visit to Taiwan and I was very pleased to hear that they are going to consider helping us on that, meaning the response was really a positive one."

Mr Toafa says Nauru and the Pacific Islands Forum have agreed that US$3.5 million is what's owed - more than two million dollars of which, is for the Kiribati workers.

I asked if they [Taiwan] could consider this, to have a timely resolution because the sooner the better for us; the issue has become a very critical and sensitive, you know, political issue. So the sooner the better for both Kiribati and Tuvalu. And also Nauru, I think that Nauru really wants that out of the way as well.

Mr Toafa says he's hoping to have an answer from Taiwan in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Toafa says there may be as many as 60 or 70 people on Nauru who wish to return to Tuvalu, and he hopes they may be able to do so in a couple of months' time.