The Khmer Vulnerability Aid Organisation yesterday said it is prepared to receive 200 Cambodians expected to be deported from the United States this year.
KVAO spokesman Bill Herod said US officials told him to prepare for 200 deportees, but did not specify when they would arrive.
“US officials told us to prepare to receive 200 [people] during 2019,” he said. “We have no information on when they will arrive, though we expect them to arrive in groups of around 50 a few months apart.”
KVAO, formerly known as the Returnee Integration Support Centre, has provided assistance to 701 Cambodian deportees since 2002.
KVAO provides resettlement assistance, including temporary housing, orientation, counselling, employment services and medical and legal aid to new arrivals.
According to US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement last month, there are currently 1,900 Cambodians facing deportations in the US, including 1,400 convicted criminals.
Mr Herod said in order to accommodate such a large number, KVAO has rented housing facilities on the outskirts of the capital.
“The facility is large enough to accommodate fifty residents, if necessary, but in most cases around half of the new arrivals quickly move on to stay with relatives or friends, at least until they get settled in their own housing,” Mr Herod said. “That has been true with the group that arrived on December 19. Several left immediately. After about a week or so, the number requiring housing assistance was down to less than half of the original group.”
“It should be noted, however, that all arrivals are eligible for other KVAO services, even if they don’t need transitional housing,” he added.
Kevin Lo, an immigration attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, yesterday said he does not yet know when the next batch of deportees will arrive in Cambodia.
“The US federal government is currently shut down, so that may affect the ability for ICE to re-arrest and schedule interviews for deportation,” Mr Lo said, noting that US President Donald Trump has yet to move to fund the government. “We continue to warn Cambodian American communities that ICE raids are coming, and that they should gather their old records to see if there are legal options.”
Mr Harod said that last year, his organisation welcomed 126 arrivals, noting that they arrived in shackles at Phnom Penh International Airport before being transferred to the General Department of Identification.
“KVAO’s ‘welcome team’ including several who had been through the whole process themselves years before was on the tarmac as the new arrivals left the plane and escorted them in rented vans for transport to the KVAO housing facility,” Mr Harod said. “There, GDID officials processed the new group to gather information needed to generate birth certificates and national ID cards. The process was quickly accomplished with courtesy and good humour.”
He noted that new arrivals are given a clean slate by the Cambodian government and that they give no indication of the nature of their arrival in Cambodia.
GID spokesman Prok May Oudom could not be reached for comment yesterday.