Deportees quizzed in detention

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Nearly all the former refugees facing deportation entered the United States as infants. AFP

Cambodia has sent officials to interview refugees in the United States who are subject to deportation orders.

Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak said about 50 refugees had been interviewed but no decision had been made on their repatriation.

Last month, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained more than 100 Cambodian former refugees and gave them final deportation orders.

Cambodia and the US have not made progress on updating a 2002 agreement covering repatriations of former refugees. The Trump Administration issued visa sanctions against some senior Cambodian officials in September after talks on a new agreement on repatriation dragged on.

The sanctions prompted Cambodia to offer to interview people for deportation.

US embassy spokesman David Josar said there was nothing new to add to the issue. Early this month, ICE spokesman Bendan Raedy said international law obliged each country to accept the return of its nationals ordered to be removed from the US.

“The United States continues to work with the government of Cambodia to establish a reliable process for the issuance of travel documents and their acceptance of the prompt, lawful return of Cambodian nationals who are subject to removal from the United States,” he said.

He said also that there were at least 534 travel document requests pending with Cambodia, stretching back to 2008.

More than 1,900 Cambodian nationals living in the United States are subject to a final order of removal, of whom 1,412 have criminal convictions.

Last month a lawyer for Asian Americans Advancing Justice filed a class action nationwide lawsuit demanding the release of detainees.

There has not yet been any progress through the courts.

Almost all of those affected arrived in the US as infants who fled with their families in the 1970s from the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Many were born in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines, and have never set foot in Cambodia, nor speak Khmer.

In the US, Cambodian-refugee communities struggle with unaddressed trauma, poverty, and violence-ridden neighbourhoods

No one from the Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry or the general immigration department could be reached for comment.

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