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Nepalese and Indians stranded in Micronesia

MICRONESIA – A small number of men from Nepal and India have decided to return home, more than 18 months after arriving on a small island in Micronesia.

Sixteen Nepalese men and 18 Indian men have been detained at a wharf in Yap since the boat they were travelling on was detained in November 2014.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said seven of the Nepalese men have now expressed their desire to return home.

When the men arrived on Yap – one of the Federated States of Micronesia in the north-western Pacific Ocean – they told local police they were hoping to reach Australia, New Zealand or the United States.

A local clam farmer, Australian citizen Phillipe Dor, said at the time the boat’s crew said they were sent there, with the guidance of a GPS supplied to them by Indonesian people smugglers who assured them they would be taken from Yap to Australia or elsewhere.

The men have been detained ever since on a Yap wharf in conditions described by locals as “dire”.

Philip Raffilpiy of the IOM’s office in Yap said the Nepalese men who had opted to return home had done so of their own will.

“It appears they’re in a very clear state of mind, they know what they’re doing,” he told the ABC’s Pacific Beat.

“I would not say more on that because they have been here for over a year and maybe they’re stressed and tired of being here and it may have helped them make the decision.”

Raffilpiy said the rest of the Nepalese men were reluctant to leave.

“They’re still analysing their situation but the Government and IOM are still helping provide the basic needs for food and clothing, as well as other needs,” he said.

“They said they don’t want to return for fear of persecution from their countries. There’s civil unrest in their countries.”

The process of determining whether the Nepalese men were genuine refugees was still ongoing, he said.

He said moves were underway to repatriate the Indian men, with the assistance of the Indian government, which was providing passports and coordinating travel arrangements with Micronesian officials.

“It is the Government of India’s will that all those from India should go back,” Raffilpiy said.

“So they’re working to get all these travel documents ready and identifications completed and then they will see how soon they can help them return back.”

It was unclear whether the Indian group had been found not to be refugees.

Raffilpiy said the United Nations refugee agency had been involved from beginning to help the IOM identify any risks and to assist the men in making a decision about their future.