Australian, NZ troops sent to help pacific islands

Written by Saima Haldar, CNN Canberra, Australia

Australia’s Defense Minister Marise Payne announced Wednesday the deployment of 1,500 military personnel to Solomon Islands after being inundated with public comments about the need for assistance.

“We have seen on social media the concerns of the Solomon Islands about the security of their people and the lack of government and the lack of government presence,” Payne said during a press conference.

This week more than 500 refugees of unspecified nationality are on a hunger strike in a camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Payne said more than 1,500 Australian soldiers would be deployed to the southern Solomons islands.

“They will go into camps but they will also work with indigenous peoples and community and local government to prevent the sort of disruption that the Australian Defence Force already does in the Solomons,” she said.

Solomons Prime Minister Benjamin Natuman said “increased security” was needed after several people were taken hostage in a church in Malaita, Malaita province.

Australian and Papua New Guinea are sending troops to the Solomon Islands. Credit: David Gray/Reuters

“We are trying to ensure that the Solomon Islands is a responsible and secure jurisdiction,” Payne said.

The Manus Island refugees are on hunger strike at the camp in Papua New Guinea to protest their indefinite detention, media reports say.

It’s not the first time Australian and New Zealand forces have been sent to the Pacific islands to help calm tensions.

Australian police left East Timor this week amid an escalating threat from gunmen in the country’s north.

“If you get an overwhelming number of people coming to the centre they may ask to be removed in order to keep the security situation calm,” Payne said.

“We made the decision for the Australian Armed Forces not to be in East Timor,” she said.


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