By ALISON ANIS
DEPARTURE plans for five New Irelanders who are currently stranded at Marshall Islands is still being stalled due to uncertainty over financial obligations regarding their repatriation.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Papua New Guinea had cited no financial obligation but said they would be looking at facilitating the departure for the islanders back home.
IOM national programme officer Solomon Kantha said the Port Moresby-based national office did not had the necessary funds to cater for repatriation of the survivors who were rescued after drifting for two months in Pacific Ocean.
“We have been in close communication with IOM office in Marshall and have also approached our head office in Geneva to help with departure of the stranded islanders,” Mr Kantha said.
He said so far, there had been no positive response from both offices but hoping that they would be able to get the islanders home before Christmas.
The Department of Foreign Affairs had requested help from IOM soon after news on the plight of the surviving islanders and their two dead comrades reached them.
According to Mr Kantha, PNG Government had approached IOM office for their assistance because it did not have the capacity to repatriate the islanders.
It has been almost a month since the islanders were rescued from sea and taken to Marshall Islands.
“At the moment, we are searching for funding sources and also considering other options to help the Govern- ment with the repatriation,” he said.
He added that IOM specific role was to assist the Government on humanitarian basis.
Mr Kantha said he did not want to make promises now and would wait until such time travel arrangements could be met before informing the Government.
“We have previously assisted with travels arrangement regarding seven New Ireland who were repatriated from Federate State of Micronesia on September,” he added, saying travel expenses were met by IOM in Micronesia.
“Our officers in Port Moresby arrived at the airport to greet the islanders,” he said.