1 Feb 2007

PNG group returns after illegal stay in Australia

4:38 pm on 1 February 2007

A group of 40 Papua New Guineans who landed illegally on a small Australian island in the Torres Strait claiming to be Australian citizens have agreed to return to PNG.

The news agency, AAP, reports that they landed on Saibai Island within sight of the PNG mainland a week ago saying they wanted to help celebrate Australia Day.

The 36 men and four women were illegal entrants but they did not claim to be refugees, did not seek protection and all had agreed to return to PNG.

A group of 26 were dropped off on the PNG island of Daru by Australian Customs vessels yesterday, three were returned to nearby PNG villages by Saibai Islanders and the remaining 11 were to be returned to Daru today.

The group are part of a Papuan movement in PNG's south who want Australia to recognise that Papuans were not given a choice to remain Australians when PNG became independent in 1975.

In November, PNG police fired warning shots to disperse hundreds of Papuans protesting outside the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby to demand recognition as Australian citizens.