The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) yesterday said that it would divide between itself and the Cambodian government the duties of processing and potentially relocating the scores of Montagnard asylum seekers whose claims the government finally agreed to hear on Wednesday.
“At the meeting yesterday, Cambodia agreed to resume registration and processing for the existing group of Montagnard asylum-seekers while UNHCR agreed to continue seeking appropriate solutions for these individuals,” UNHCR spokesperson Vivian Tan said in an email. “Depending on the situation of each case, these solutions could involve voluntary repatriation or resettlement to a third country.”
The government had set a February deadline for the unprocessed Montagnards – a historically persecuted ethnic minority from Vietnam’s central highlands – to return home of their own accord or be forcibly repatriated. However, the government’s reversal of that decision and promise to hear their claims is no guarantee that they will be granted refugee status.
According to the UN definition, a refugee cannot return to their country of origin due to a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.
So far, only 13 of the hundreds of Montagnards who have come across the border have been recognised as refugees.
Tan said that the 13 would go to the Philippines to a UN-supported facility to await resettlement in another country.