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By Robert Palme

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 5) - Two companies involved in the Papua New Guinea mineral resource sector face hefty fines for allegedly illegally employing expatriates in the country, Labor and Industrial Relations secretary David Tibu said yesterday.

Tibu said his department has found that the two companies were illegally employing 100-odd expatriates who entered the country on business visas.

Business visas are issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, and those issued such visas are not allowed to seek paid employment while in the country.

Tibu said what his department had found was only "the tip of the iceberg."

He said the 100-odd people have been identified and when all paper work is completed they will be charged and fined PGK5,000 [US$1,747] each. They will also be blacklisted and will not be allowed to seek employment in the country in future.

Tibu told The National yesterday that one company (named), based in the Highlands, had employed 72 expatriates illegally, and the other company (named), based in the Momase region, had about 30 people with business visas on its payroll.

He said these illegal employees would return to their respective countries when their business visas expired, and then return after successfully applying for a renewal.

For one of these companies, this has been going on for the last four years, he said.

Tibu said people visiting the country on tourist, dependency and business visas should not be working in the country, adding that they are breaking the taxation, labor and immigrations laws of Papua New Guinea.

"As long as I am secretary, these people will not enter this country again to work," Tibu said.

He said the problem could be worse because his department does not know the number of people living and working in the country illegally with business, dependent or tourist visas.

All visas are approved and issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Immigration. Labor and Industrial Relations have no say in the issuance of visas.

"Unless someone tells us or we make random checks on individuals and companies to find out about their visas and employment contracts, no one really know how many illegal employees are in the country," Tibu said.

He urged individuals and groups who are aware of illegal employees to report them to his department.

In one such reported case, a nightclub in Port Moresby was fined PGK5,000 for employing the wife of an expatriate who was in the country on a dependent visa.

Tibu said the woman is still in the country but has been ordered not to seek paid employment in Papua New Guinea.

April 6, 2006

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