Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Details emerge of refugee meet

Details emerge of refugee meet

A banner hangs on the fence of a refugee camp in Anibare district
A banner hangs on the fence of a refugee camp in Anibare district, Nauru, earlier this month where a Cambodian delegation was to meet with refugees. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Details emerge of refugee meet

Refugees who met with Cambodian immigration officials last week on the Pacific island of Nauru were told they would be given permanent visas and travel documents but would have to pay for English-language education and would lose all but emergency financial support after a year, a refugee said.

Two men attended the meeting where Cambodia explained how the resettlement program signed between Australia and Cambodia in September 2014 would work, but according to a refugee in the meeting, attendees only went out of curiosity and were not interested in moving to the Kingdom.

“We are traded like slaves between two corrupted governments. One wealthy but obsessed by the boats, the other one hungry enough to commit any crime [for] money”, the refugee, who cannot be named for security reasons, said.

“These two [countries] have created a great torture machine to reach their nasty political, economic purposes and are blessed enough to have the support of the all international organisations like [the] UN.

“Many people have died. Many children [have been] sexually abused. Many women [have been] raped … and everybody [is] calling for investigations instead of any real, practical help. We don’t need your investigation. We don’t need your sympathy. We don’t beg any fake respect. We just don’t want to be slaves anymore.”

According to the agreement signed by the two countries on September 26, Australia would cover all the costs of resettlement and later said it would also give Cambodia an additional $35 million in aid to sweeten the deal.

General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, and Kerm Sarin, director of the ministry’s Refugee Department, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The International Organisation for Migration, which has agreed to help facilitate the “voluntary” transfer of refugees from Nauru as long as a number of conditions are met, was also present at last week’s meeting, according to IOM’s Asia Pacific spokesman Joe Lowry.

“We would have had no talks with anyone unless they had expressed an interest in relocating. That hasn’t happened, to the best of my knowledge,” he said.

A spokesperson for Australia’s minister of immigration could not be reached yesterday.

The refugee on Nauru said the community felt criminalised, as other groups who arrived by boat at the same time had been allowed to move to Australia.

“Being [a] refugee is not [a] crime.… We are [neither] criminals nor slaves. We are ordinary people who are fighting for their right to live.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY AND CHEANG SOKHA

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol

  • Ministry to 'seek justice' for officials indicted in US for 'monkey smuggling'

    The Cambodian government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said they will make the “utmost effort” to seek justice for a Cambodian official arrested in John F Kennedy International Airport in New York for allegedly conspiring to smuggle crab-eating macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis)