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Solomon Islands bars Australian police chief from returning

Solomon Islands bars Australian police chief from returning

The Solomon Islands government has moved to prevent the South Pacific nation's police chief, an Australian national, from returning to the country, a senior official announced late Tuesday.
Immigration Minister Patteson Oti said he had declared police commissioner Shane Castles an "undesirable immigrant."
"The Solomon Islands government firmly believes Mr. Castles' return and continued presence here is considered prejudicial to the peace, defense, public safety, public morality, security and good governance of the Solomon Islands," Oti said in the statement released through Brisbane law firm Henshaw and Associates.
Oti said the declaration had been published in the nation's official gazette and all immigration, customs, quarantine, civil aviation and border control authorities had been notified, effectively preventing Castles from re-entering the Solomons. The police chief currently is on leave in Australia.
The decision is set to escalate a diplomatic row between Australia and Solomon Islands following the Julian Moti affair.
Moti, an Australian lawyer appointed but later suspended as Solomon Islands attorney-general, is wanted by Australian federal police for alleged child sex offenses.
Castles was present in October when police raided the office of Solomons' Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, as police sought evidence relating to the escape of Moti from police custody in Papua New Guinea and his illegal entry into the Solomons.
Canberra has consistently rejected offers from the Solomons to return Moti to Australia, because of attached conditions.
Sogavare earlier indicated he wanted to remove Castles and previously has threatened to kick him out of the country, accusing him of political bias toward Australia.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman, speaking on usual condition of anonymity, said the Australian government was "very disappointed" at the decision.
He noted the Solomon Islands government had given Australia no advance notice of its decision.
Relations between the Solomons and Australia have been strained since Sogavare expelled Australia's top diplomat for alleged interference in the nation's affairs.
He also threatened to remove immunity for Australian troops and police serving in the country as part of the regional assistance mission that helped end four years of communal violence in the islands' nation.


Updated : 2021-03-03 20:41 GMT+08:00