PHNOM PENH, September 26, (Khmer Times) – The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the settlement of refugees in Cambodia was signed today with ink and toasted with champagne.
The Cambodian Minister of the Interior, Sar Kheng, and Australian Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, signed the MOU allowing denied asylum seekers held in Australia to settle in Cambodia.
“The MOU between Cambodia and Australia will offer settlement of refugees in the Kingdom of Cambodia on a voluntary basis and in conformity with the Refugees Convention,” a joint statement said.
“The number and timing [of arrival] of the refugees’ settlement will be determined by Cambodia.”
Elaine Pearson, Australia director of Human Rights Watch, admonished, “This deal undermines refugee protection in the region, and around the world, because it makes developed countries think they can pick and choose which refugees they take, and which ones they can offload elsewhere simply by offering development assistance.”
“While Cambodia has signed the Refugee Convention, it has a terrible record for protecting refugees and is mired in serious human rights abuses. Cambodia has not demonstrated the willingness or ability to provide refugees adequate protection,” she continued.
“Australia has found a new excuse to palm off the refugee problem rather than genuinely finding a regional solution that will involve Australia doing its fair share,” she said.
Australia will provide its expertise and experience to assist Cambodia to strengthen settlement support for the refugees now detained by Australia at a location on the island of Nauru.
“As part of this commitment, Australia will bear the direct costs of the arrangement, including initial support to refugees, and relevant capacity building for Cambodia to ensure that it has the appropriate resources to receive and integrate the refugees successfully,” the joint statement said.