The National – Friday, December 24, 2010
By JEFFREY ELAPA
MORE than 100 Papua New Guineans, on their way to petition the Australian government to recognise them as its citizens early this week, were stopped by Australian customs in the Torres Strait and were due to be taken to Thursday Island yesterday.
Australia’s immigration department spokesman Sandi Logan said they would be deported.
He said the group of 119 set out from PNG in boats earlier this week, saying they were heading to Australia to make their case.
Logan told Radio Australia the group, including some children, had entered Australian waters unlawfully and would be sent back to PNG as soon as possible.
“Frankly, this is a waste of a lot of people’s time, customs on the water and Queensland police on the water,” he said.
“Immigration officials have much better things to do than dealing with this sort of prank that the group is pulling.”
PNG national security sources said the people, believed to be from Western, Gulf and Central, travelled on seven boats to petition the Australia government to recognise them as citizens.
Sources said a woman, Lorna Ray from Hanuabada village in NCD, was among the first to be picked up by Australian customs while others were rounded at Sigabaduru and Mabudawan, near Daru Island, ready to cross to Thursday Island.
Leader of the group, Jonathan Baure, was among the boat people and was understood to have presented their petition to authorities on Thursday Island.
The group is claiming and pressing for Australian government recognition as citizens.
The Australian High Commission said it was aware of a group seeking travel clearance to travel to Australia to press their claim for citizenship.
It said individuals who attempted to enter Australia without authority would face a range of enforcement measures such as interception and seizure of the vessel, refusal of entry and removal from Australia.