Refugee agreement between Australia, Cambodia uncertain

Refugee resettlement deal signed between Australian and Cambodian government generates uncertainty

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A charter flight could fly the first set of rejected refugees by the Australian government, from the Pacific atoll of Nauru to be resettled in Cambodia on Monday in accordance to the deal made between the two governments.

However, there seems to be an uncertainty in communication between the two governments which have signed a resettlement agreement for the asylum seekers who are in Nauru, late last year, September 26. However, there is no confirmation on whether the refugees want to go to Cambodia.

Specific nationalities of the refugees who will be sent to Cambodia have not been provided, however, many asylum seekers from countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka have tried to seek refuge in Australia.

The resettlement agreement was signed by the Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Cambodia’s Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

In exchange of money, Cambodia’s government has signed an agreement to accept some of Australia’s rejected asylum seekers and will only take in people if they would voluntarily come.

According to the agreement, Australia will pay $31 million  ($40m Australian Dollars) to Cambodia over four years, and will also pay for the refugees’ resettlement costs.

Morrison claimed that the $40 million is provided for various “development aid projects” and that this money is on top of the $79 million Australia has already provided Cambodia in terms of aid for the country.

Both in Australia and Cambodia this agreement has been protested by human rights groups.

The human rights group in Cambodia has argued that the developing nation is not suitable to accept and support refugees.

According to Human Rights Watch, Cambodia still remains as one of the most corrupt nations on Earth (156th on the Transparency International list of 175 countries).

Rights group has also claimed that Cambodia has a poor record of dealing with refugees seeking refuge and that they have sent them back to countries where they have been persecuted.

Kheng commented on the situation of the refugees coming and said, “The principal remains, but whether they will come or not, we do not know.”

Kheng said the government officials will fly to Nauru again to thoroughly discuss the deal, “We are preparing our officials to visit [Nauru], but during the last visit only three refugees came to meet with our officials. The others [refugees] refused to meet us, so we don’t know what to do. It’s still unclear whether the three who met is will come, or not.”

Australia has a poor reputation in terms of treating asylum seekers, it has implemented controversial policies aimed at ending boats reaching their shores. Anyone who arrives is detained and they are either processed in Nauru or Papua New Guinea.

Last year, Australian authorities have confirmed that they turned back 429 migrants in 15 vessels and forced them to go back to the countries they had fled from, since the government enacted its Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB).

The United Nations refugee agency has warned Australia over its policy towards refugees, claiming their action could be breaking international law.

TRTWorld and agencies