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Refugee housing readied

“Villa-style” temporary accommodation in Phnom Penh is awaiting four refugees approved this week for transfer from Australia, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said yesterday.

Leul Mekonnen, who heads the IOM’s Cambodia office, said the villa would be used to house the refugees – who were previously held on the Pacific island of Nauru – “for up to three months”.

IOM caseworkers, he added, would work to find suitable longer-term accommodation “on a case-by-case basis” as “different people have different needs”. Mekonnen declined to reveal the exact location of the temporary accommodation, citing privacy and protection concerns, but said it would be in the capital.

In a statement, the IOM said that, while at the villa, “the refugees will receive intensive Khmer language and cultural and social orientation.” Other support will include “education services, health services, [and] employment services”. Mekonnen said he was unsure when the group would be arriving.

Multiple officials at the Interior Ministry said yesterday that they had no information regarding the arrival date.

The refugees – one from Myanmar and three from Iran – are the first to arrive under a controversial deal signed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Australia’s former immigration minister Scott Morrison on September 26.

The group was flown secretly from Nauru to Australia earlier this month, according to a refugee advocacy group and refugees still on the island.

A letter previously distributed on Nauru offered refugees joining the pilot scheme an estimated $15,000 each and numerous other inducements as well as mentioning that “villa-style” accommodation would be available on arrival.

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