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Nauru Refugees Believed to Reject Cambodia Relocation

Donald Lee / Khmer Times Share:

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The majority of refugees in the Nauru detention camp have reportedly refused relocation to Cambodia.

A charter flight with Nauru asylum seekers that was expected to fly into Cambodia this week has been reportedly postponed, according to Australian media reports.

The Australian government has rejected claims that refugees are actively protesting relocation. “There are some within the community at the moment trying to pressure people not to take up the offer [relocation to Cambodia], but that is just prolonging their period on Nauru,” said Australian Immigraion Minister Peter Dutton on ABC Radio in Australia on Monday.

According to the Australian government, about one sixth of the 1,200 asylum seekers in the detention camp have been classified as eligible for resettlement in Cambodia. Of these 200 only a mere handful has purportedly agreed to move to the Kingdom.

“They’re trying to push people to get on [the transport],” said Ian Rintoul, executive director of the Refugee Action Coalition based in Australia, to Reuters. “They’re pulling out the stops, there’s no doubt about that.”

On Friday, the UN released a statement expressing concern over the Australian government’s initiation of transporting refugees, including children, to Cambodia.  

“According to Article Three of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia and Cambodia are both parties, the rights of children are paramount and must be guaranteed in every situation,” said Daniel Toole, Unicef’s East Asia and Pacific regional director. 

Last September, Cambodian and Australian authorities reached a $40-million deal that would send volunteers from the Nauru asylum detention camp to Cambodia. The resettlement plan has been condemned by some human rights groups, citing Cambodia’s perceived lack of facilities to settle refugees here, as well as Cambodia’s checkered history with asylum applicants. 

Nauru, the smallest state in the South Pacific, is home to about 1,000 asylum seekers interned in detention camps by the Australian government. (Photo: Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program)

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