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120 Daru islanders bound for Australia in small boats

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 22, 2010) – The Australian immigration department has warned a group of Papua New Guineans against crossing Torres Strait as part of a campaign to be given Australian citizenship.

The group, Papua Australia Plaintiff United Affiliates, wants Australia to recognise that Papuans were not given a choice to remain Australians when PNG became independent in 1975.

Its leader, Jonathan Baure, says 120 people in 12 dinghies have left Daru Island for the 150-kilometre trip to the Australian mainland.

He says another 20 boats, full of people who have been campaigning for a decade for Australian citizenship, are set to leave the island in the coming days.

The Australian authorities say the group could face a range of enforcement measures, including interception by Customs and Border Protection, the seizure of their vessels, refusal of entry and removal from Australia.

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