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Nauru Refugee Plan Moves Forward

Donald Lee and Nov Sivutha / Khmer Times Share:

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Five asylum seekers blocked by Australia have agreed to move from a detention camp in Nauru to Cambodia. Their arrival date is unclear.

According to the Australian-based Refugee Action Coalition, the first group comprises three men from Sri Lanka, an Iranian, and a man of Myanmar’s Rohynga muslim minority. 

Cambodia’s Interior Ministry has sent two officials on a trip to Australia and Nauru to expedite the process of relocating the first batch of refugees.

“We don’t know when they will arrive in Cambodia,” Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry told Khmer Times. “And we don’t know the number of those who are planning to arrive.”

When asked, he also confirmed that no payment has been disbursed from the $40 million agreement between Australia and Cambodia in September to send volunteers from the Nauru asylum detention camp here. “So far we haven’t received any aid from Australia,” the Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The Interior Ministry has also said the majority of refugees on Nauru  have refused to move to Cambodia. The Australian government, however, 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, but that is just prolonging their period on Nauru,”  Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Australia’s ABC Radio on Monday.

The resettlement deal between both countries has been condemned by some human rights groups, citing Cambodia’s perceived lack of facilities to settle refugees here, as well as the country’s checkered history with asylum applicants.

IOM to Assist

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reached a deal with the Cambodian government to allow refugees to live and work anywhere in the Kingdom.

“If and when [the asylum seekers] come, we will assist them,” IOM Asia and Pacific spokesperson Joe Lowry told Khmer Times.

He said the IOM plans to coordinate with Cambodian government officials to set up the incoming refugees “with accommodation, food and drinks for the early part of their stay.”

“We would also be involved in cultural orientation, language classes, etc, and assisting them in a search for work and longer-term accommodation,” said Mr. Lowry.

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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