At present, there are nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants who continued to reside in Cambodia without applying for long-term renewals of their visas, a senior Ministry of Interior official said while also remarking on some of the challenges presented by the management of the Kingdom’s immigrant population.
Speaking at an annual meeting to review the work results of 2021 and direction for 2022 on February 23, ministry secretary-general Por Pheak discussed the challenges of managing immigrants.
“We know of at least 9,924 foreign nationals who did not apply for a new residence permit or visa renewal, and some immigrant children that turned 18 did not apply for a residence permit as the law mandates,” he said.
In order to address the issue, Pheak said the General Department of Immigration (GDI) had already listed the names of foreigners who had not renewed their visas or apply for permanent residence and those names would be distributed to all capital and provincial police chiefs.
Pheak requested that municipal and provincial police chiefs assign officers to summon those listed to a meeting at the GDI. If they failed to follow through on the summons and resolve their visa issues, they would then face legal measures.
At the meeting, he also pushed for the issuance of an inter-ministerial prakas between his ministry and the Ministry of Economy and Finance regarding the fines for individuals violating the immigration law.
He added that the management of immigrants by tracking them from one residential location to another as they moved about had not been fully implemented yet.
He also noted that rules regarding marriages between foreign nationals who wish to marry each other in Cambodia and between foreigners and Cambodians needed to be updated with the standards better defined and the process clarified for the benefit and protection of all parties.
Pheak noted recent issues with the Vietnamese authorities not allowing certain Vietnamese immigrants back into their country, which resulted in some of the floating houses evicted from the capital ending up in Kampong Chhnang province when that was not the intention behind the interior ministry’s relevant mandates.
He continued that problems persisted with the owners of residences who did not cooperate with their local police departments to report the occupancy of foreigners who are renting properties from them and the capacity of the local police officials in this area remains limited, partly due to language barriers with foreigners and also lack of information technology systems and skills.
He also expressed concerns over the illegal entry of foreigners into Cambodia, which affects national security and social order, and especially troubling was the increase in cases of trafficked people who were subject to confinement and forced to work overtime while suffering various human rights abuses.
He emphasised that the GDI requested that municipal and provincial police chiefs check the list of those who had been deported and who later returned to Cambodia but no longer has legal status to be here. Those names should be sent to the interior ministry and priority placed on finding and detaining those repeat offenders.
Pheak noted that this would not be an easy task due to the complexity of situation in determining people’s true identities and the large number of different jurisdictions involved.
Police officers may not be able to reach some of these locations or have insufficient manpower to conduct a search so the capacity of local officials remains limited and they often lack the means or technical know-how to find their targets and this capacity issue presented a sort of loophole in the way immigrants are being managed at present, he said.
Pheak requested that relevant departments strengthen cooperation with neighbouring countries and implement a process to make it easier to contact them to deport their citizens back to their respective countries.
According to the interior ministry’s report, police cracked down on 667 cases of illegal border crossing and arrested 4,333 people of eight different nationalities. They also deported 3,794 people back to their countries through border checkpoints and 519 people were sent to the GDI for deportation further abroad while 20 people were sent to prison due to the commission of additional crimes.
The report said border police forces cooperated with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces to facilitate the return of nearly 110,000 Cambodian migrant workers back to Cambodia and they cooperated with specialised police units to clamp down on 239 cases of brokers smuggling people across the border, which resulted in 282 people being detained and 49 people referred to court for prosecution.