Only one refugee on the Pacific island of Nauru has so far taken up the Australian government’s offer of resettlement in Cambodia, an Interior Ministry official has said.
General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the ministry, said on Thursday that an ethnic Rohingya man from Myanmar, which has seen a series of deadly anti-Muslim riots since 2012, had accepted the “support package” offered by Australia, which includes thousands of dollars in cash payments.
“I received the information that … only one volunteer, a Rohingya … wants to resettle in Cambodia,” he said, adding that more may yet take up the offer in the coming days.
Sopheak could not confirm when the first refugees were expected to fly to Phnom Penh but said that it could take "some time" before the arrangements were finalised.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton pleaded for asylum seekers on Nauru to accept resettlement in a video message on Wednesday, just days after he hoped the first group of arrivals would touch down in Phnom Penh.
In a letter distributed in the Nauru detention centre last week, the Australian Immigration Ministry offered large cash payments and other assistance to refugees and asylum seekers who choose to move now. It also warned that the same level of support may not be available to those who choose to accept resettlement at a later date.
Dutton repeated those warnings in his video to the refugees on Wednesday.
“There’s no guarantee that this level of support will be offered to people who wait and do not commit to this first group,” he said.