Illegal PNG migrants swamp remote island,25197,22755460-2702,00.html

November 14, 2007

ONE of Australia's most remote islands is being overrun by illegal immigrants and residents say they have been abandoned by authorities as the new arrivals sap resources, cause social unrest and stretch health services.

Saibai Island, just a few kilometres from PNG territorial waters in northern Torres Strait, became a target for the PNG nationals about three months ago. The island's council estimates a filthy shantytown could be home to as many as 300 of the illegal immigrants, almost matching the island's legal population.

Since the influx, the island's health clinic has been overrun with patients reporting with tuberculosis, malaria and whooping cough.

"They don't take any notice of the local Immigration officers. We've been trying to get people in Canberra to help," a Saibai Island Council spokesman said yesterday.

There have also been reports of increased violence, theft, drug running and even the desecration of the island's cemetery being blamed on the PNG nationals, who locals call overstayers.

"There are sanitation problems. The area around Western Point stinks. They hide in the mangroves, so we don't know how many there are, but hundreds came for a funeral and many haven't left," the council spokesman said.