Australian Refugee Deal to Help Develop Cambodia

Va Sonyka and Nou Sotheavy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Minister of Foreign Affairs Long Visalo (C) and General Sok Phal (2nd-R) of Interior Ministry’s Immigration speaking at the Ministry of Interior today (KT Photo: Chor Sokunthea)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary of State Long Visalo (C) alongside General Sok Phal (2nd-R) of the Ministry of the Interior, speaking at a press conference today. (KT Photo: Chor Sokunthea) 

PHNOM PENH, September 29, (Khmer Times) – In addition to the $35 million Australia has promised to pay Cambodia for the harboring of refugees, Australia will also help develop Cambodia’s refugee settlement capabilities. 

Long Visalo, Cambodia’s minister for Foreign Affairs, expanded on some details about the deal and the incoming refugees at the Ministry of the Interior today.  

“The Refugees from Australia will be temporarily stationed in Phnom Penh, to give them orientation in terms of acclimatizing and guiding them in settling in Cambodia,” he said. 

“The final resettlement will not be in Phnom Penh, it is up to the Cambodian and Australian governments to determine the final location.”

“This Memorandum of Understanding is set for four years and can be amended, but we will need to inform Australia six months in advance,” he added.

Sok Phal, director general of Ministry of Interior’s immigration department, noted that fewer than 10 asylum seekers are expected to arrive in Cambodia during the first run of the resettlement program.

Australia will sponsor transportation and accommodation for basic living expenses, including access to schools for children. 

If necessary, the Australian government will help develop the final settlement location to meet the standards of care required in the deal.

A certificate of declaration of refugee status will be issued to each person able to work in Cambodia.  

The ability to sponsor other family members to immigrate to Cambodia from their country of origin will also be provided.

All of the refugees will undergo health and background checks before entering the country. 

Mr. Long Visalo emphasized that 12 months after entering Cambodia, the refugees will be given the option to return to their country of origin or stay and live in Cambodia.

“Cambodians arrived as refugees in the USA, France and Australia during the Khmer Rouge, so we should be humanitarian enough to help these refugees flee prosecution by giving them a chance in Cambodia,” Mr. Long Visalo remarked. 

He added, “It is the obligation of Cambodia to accept these refugees because it part of the humanitarian work Cambodia must do as a member of the United Nations.”

Speaking on Australian TV, opposition leader Sam Rainsy was quick to criticize the deal, suggesting that the refugees are being dehumanized and being treated like commodities.

“I thought that it was not right when Cambodia accepted the deal because they are not goods. They are human being,” he said.

There are 91 documented refugees currently in Cambodia existing refugees already in Cambodia – none of whom were diverted from Australia.

Mr. Long Visalo suggested that Cambodia’s economy is better, more stable and more able to accept these refugees, now that poverty has been diminished.

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