Nine Cambodians have been deported from the United States and arrived in Phnom Penh yesterday morning.
A senior immigration police officer confirmed their arrival.
Another group of about 50 Cambodians were due to be sent back this month but had their departure postponed until a fresh hearing can be held into their cases at a Californian court in January.
“According to the schedule, the nine people arrived at about 10.45am,” an official told Khmer Times without elaborating.
Nearly 10 police officers awaited their arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday. They were brought to waiting cars and drove off before seeing relatives who had come to meet them.
On December 6, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that refugees who went to the United States after 1994 would be accepted as the administration of US President Donald Trump tries to restrict immigration.
Mr Hun Sen said about 600 people had been sent back to Cambodia between 2002 and today.
David Josar, deputy spokesman for the US Embassy, confirmed Cambodian citizens had been returned and were eligible to receive reintegration services offered by a local NGO.
“We can confirm nine Cambodian citizens were returned to Cambodia today by the US Department of Homeland Security,” he said.
“We appreciate the government of Cambodia’s willingness to meet its obligations under international law to accept the return of its nationals who are not eligible to stay in the United States.”
He referred further questions to the Department of Homeland Security for details regarding the case.
According to US Immigration Customs Enforcement, there are 1,900 Cambodian nationals residing in the US who are subject to final removal orders, 1,412 of whom have criminal convictions.
Kem Villa, director of the Khmer Vulnerability Aid Organisation, formerly of the Returnee Integration Support Centre, said the returnees, which included one woman, arrived at his centre this afternoon.
“Now they have arrived at our place and we are preparing accommodation for them,” Mr Villa said. He said the centre would help the returnees obtain family books, ID cards and civil status documents.
Mr Villa added that the services were free of charge because of funding from USAID and the Mennonite Central Committee.
He said his centre had received 566 returnees since the programme was implemented in 2002, not including yesterday’s new arrivals.
“We regret they have been split up from their families, siblings and children,” he said.
The United States District Court of the Central District of California granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the deportation of approximately 100 Cambodian-Americans earlier this week.
The group included the 50 Cambodians who were due to be sent back this month but had their departure postponed.
The decision came after petitioners filed an application last week seeking a stay of removal until they had the opportunity to challenge their deportation orders.
A fresh hearing into the case of those facing deportation will now take place in California on January 11.
Many petitioners in the case fled Cambodia as small children in the 1970s during the Khmer Rouge regime. They have been living in the US for decades but face deportation after committing crimes in the country.