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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Australia and Cambodia cooperate to strengthen border controls and promote cross-cultural understanding

Australia and Cambodia cooperate to strengthen border controls and promote cross-cultural understanding

Dr Wendy Southern, Deputy Secretary of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and Major General Pin Piseth, Director of the Cambodian Immigration Department, at the inaugural Australia-Cambodia Immigration Forum.

In 2011 Australia and Cambodia continued to work in partnership to strengthen Cambodia’s capacity to manage the movement of people across its borders, particularly in combating illegal migration and trafficking in persons. For Cambodia, as well as for other ASEAN countries more generally, this is becoming increasingly important as the ease of movement of people increases and with the recognition that these forms of transnational crimes are regional issues.

At the same time, with the continuing growth of trade and tourism across our region, our two countries have worked together to streamline immigration processes to help legitimate travellers travel more smoothly and efficiently.

The inaugural Australia-Cambodia Immigration Forum was held in Canberra in March 2011. A major outcome of the Forum was an agreement which will help guide discussions at future forums, the next of which is to be hosted by Cambodia in May 2012. There was also in-principle agreement to work together to strengthen Cambodia’s refugee processing, through examining Cambodia’s existing business processes and offering advice on future directions. This work is undertaken in conjunction with UNHCR, to maximise training opportunities using a variety of expert sources.

Another of the highlights of our immigration and border cooperation in 2011 was the Australia-ASEAN international seminar on Border Capabilities, which was held in Canberra in December. At the seminar, Australia was able to outline its layered approach to border management, incorporating a range of capabilities, such as strategic business, systems and project planning, legislation and policy, and IT infrastructure.

An exciting border management project which commenced in 2011 is the Alerts List project, whereby Australian subject matter experts are working with Cambodian immigration experts to build on current efforts to implement a comprehensive and coordinated system of monitoring the movements of visitors to Cambodia at various border crossings. This initiative is set to continue in 2012.

One ongoing and significant aspect of Australia’s cooperation with Cambodia to strengthen its border controls has been the provision of English-language training to officers within the Cambodian Department of Immigration.  The Department of Immigration is conscious of the benefits of having multilingual officers at border checkpoints and in improving dialogue with foreign partners, for instance at international conferences.  

Other immigration-related ASEAN conferences and workshops held during 2011 covered topics such as facial recognition and immigration intelligence, integrating immigration capabilities and threat and risk assessment. The focus of these training initiatives was on train-the-trainer, so that ultimately Cambodian immigration officers can design and deliver their own training packages, and develop a strategic and coordinated approach to border management, with ongoing support from Australia.

During 2011 Australian immigration officers facilitated visits to Australia for business, study or tourist purposes for nearly 4,000 Cambodian nationals, including a number of VIP guests. As well as enabling Cambodians to see different tourist areas of Australia, or establish business connections, or to further their education, these visits have brought our two countries together through a greater understanding of our respective cultures, values and traditions. Also, during 2011, over 850 Cambodians became permanent residents of Australia on the basis of their Australian partner or other family connection.



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