10 May 2012

Pacific Island row over Australian immigration

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The Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu has demanded an explanation from the Australian government as to why Vanuatu's prime minister, Sato Kilman, was forced to complete Australian immigration forms despite the fact that he was not entering Australia.

Australian immigration

Australian Federal Police officers have been expelled from Vanuatu's capital Port Vila over the treatment of its prime minister last month.

Prime Minister Kilman and his delegation were on transit to a trip to Israel on 27, April when they were stopped by Australian immigration officials and instructed to fill out an Australian immigration arrivals form.

Vanuatu's foreign minister, Alfred Carlot has accused Australia of not respecting Vanuatu and Mr Kilman's position as the head of a foreign government.

"The treatment accord to the head of the Vanuatu government and his delegation when they were on a high level visit to Israel is a disappointing one and undignified," said Mr Carlot.

"The Vanuatu government demands an immediate explanation from the High Commission [of Australia] and why the head of government of the Republic of Vanuatu and his delegation had to be demanded to complete the arrival cards and require immigration and customs clearance even though the Vanuatu government had never requested an exit during the transit."

While Australia may want to avoid a diplomatic row with Vanuatu, Vanuatu has responded to the controversy by suspending all Australian Federal Police (AFP) operations in Vanuatu.

"The government has now advised the High Commission of the Vanuatu government's decision to close down within 24 hours the AFP office based at the high Commission and the immediate closure of all AFP operations in various government law agencies in Vanuatu," said Mr Carlot.

The officers stationed in Vanuatu's capital Port Vila have since left and the liaison office has been closed.

The Australian government has responded to the move by saying it is 'disappointed' and has asked Vanuatu to reconsider the move.


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