Vietnamese nationals were deported en masse this week from Svay Rieng province, with 142 illegal migrants sent back across the border in a single day, as Cambodia’s nationwide census of foreigners continues, officials said yesterday.
General Sok Phal, director of the Interior Ministry’s Immigration Department, said the 142 Vietnamese nationals were gathered on Wednesday and “deported back to Vietnam because they did not have any documents”.
According to Phal, since the first census deportations in September, 306 foreigners have been forced to leave.
The census has been presented as a government effort to take a more precise count of foreigners living in Cambodia and enforce the country’s Immigration Law. It has been celebrated by some observers as a chance to develop a clearer policy regarding undocumented Vietnamese. But concerns have also been raised that Vietnamese people could be unfairly targeted and deported.
Phal yesterday stressed that illegal migrants of all nationalities and races had been given the same treatment.
They have been “deported to their own country regardless of white or black skin”, he said, adding that Chinese, Thai and Nigerian nationals were among those discovered to be living here illegally.
However, he added, 70 per cent of the deportees were Vietnamese.
Deputy director of the immigration department Mam Srim Vanna, who is conducting the census in Svay Rieng, said he was not sure when it would be complete.
Ratanakkiri deported at least 12 Vietnamese nationals living there illegally in September.
Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Minority Rights Organization, said he continued to “support the government process to figure out where the illegal immigrants are”.
“They must be deported. This is the law,” he said. But, Chanrith added, the government “should clarify its policy” on children born in Cambodia to Vietnamese parents.