Australia’s federal government's proffered a pilot program to allow fruit pickers from Vanuatu to travel to the Northern Territory. However, this now has been thrown into question, with a Vanuatu Government spokesman saying most ministers are against the plan.
A final decision is set to be made next week, with Vanuatu's Office of the Prime Minister saying it is seeking legal advice before allowing any workers to leave the country.
The pilot program would allow up to 200 workers to travel from Vanuatu to harvest mangoes in the Northern Territory. Those men and women were expecting to board a chartered flight to Darwin next Tuesday.
The federal government considers the plan as a solution to labour shortages in the Territory, and mango farmers have warned they will not be able to harvest this season's crop without workers from overseas. But a spokesman for the Prime Minister of Vanuatu Bob Loughman told ABC that the scheme may not proceed, saying some Vanuatu government ministers wanted to instead focus on repatriating their own citizens who are currently overseas.
Abc.net.au quoted him as saying: "The Government of Vanuatu through its Council of Ministers has not, at this stage, made a decision to give a green light for the sending of the seasonal workers to Darwin early next week. [The council] is predominantly against the plan, arguing that all the efforts should now be placed with the Repatriation Plan which is rolling out again next week."