Thursday, 15 May 2008

Indonesian men cleared of fishing illegally

Fifty-five Indonesian fishermen have been cleared of fishing illegally off Australia's northern coast and will be compensated for their boats being wrongly destroyed.

Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has told Parliament the 55 fishermen are being held in a detention centre but will be transferred to a Darwin motel today and sent home on Saturday.

Mr Burke says five of their boats were destroyed when they were caught last month and the fishermen will be compensated.

He says those still in detention will be transferred to a Darwin motel and sent back to Indonesia on Saturday.

"As can be the case in any law enforcement activity, genuine errors can be made," he said.

"Given the numbers of people involved, I did feel it was important to inform the house directly of these matters.

"The Indonesian consulate is expected to provide travel documents for this group by noon tomorrow to assist their return to Indonesia."

The Indonesia Consul in Darwin is happy with the outcome.

Harbangan Napitupulu says investigations into other Indonesian boats apprehended in April are continuing.

He says he was surprised 33 boats were apprehended across three weeks.

"We felt that perhaps there was something wrong with these apprehensions," he said.

"We met the fishermen, most of them mentioned that they are still in the Territorial water."

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