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Aus refugee plan in limbo

Julie Bishop and Hun Sen
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) speaks to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (L) during a meeting at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on February 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ TANG CHHIN SOTHY

Aus refugee plan in limbo

Cambodia has not yet made a decision on a controversial proposal to take in refugees from any of Australia’s offshore detention centres, the interior minister said this morning.

Speaking at the opening of two new general directorates within the Ministry of Interior charged with handling immigration issues and the provision of identity documents, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said he is still “considering” the proposal.

“Until now we have not decided yet,” Kheng told reporters.

“It is being [considered] but no decision has been made at all."

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made the request during talks in Phnom Penh in February, according to Cambodian officials.

Earlier this month, Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made a surprise visit to Phnom Penh, where he had a closed-door meeting with Kheng. The details of the meeting were not disclosed.

In an interview with Fairfax Media in Australia yesterday, Morrison said a country's economic capacity is irrelevant to his planned expansion of a “club” of nations to take refugees.

“Without mentioning names, when you have a country that’s willing to be engaged in it, an experienced country that is willing to sponsor it and a third country that is a signatory country like Nauru that is also party to all of this . . . That would seem to be a positive thing and something that should be encouraged,” he said.

Julie Bishop and Hun Sen
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) speaks to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (L) during a meeting at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on February 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ TANG CHHIN SOTHY

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