Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HRW urges withdrawal from refugee deal

HRW urges withdrawal from refugee deal

Refugees hold signs during a protest against the Australia-Cambodia refugee deal last year on Nauru
Refugees hold signs during a protest against the Australia-Cambodia refugee deal last year on Nauru. PHOTO SUPPLIED

HRW urges withdrawal from refugee deal

Ahead of the likely arrival of the first group of refugees from Nauru under Cambodia’s agreement with Australia, Human Rights Watch yesterday called on Canberra to withdraw from the planned resettlement scheme.

“The Australian government is trying to pay Cambodia to take some refugees off its hands and its conscience,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at HRW. “This isn’t a solution, but rather a business deal at the expense of some very vulnerable people.”

Four refugees have so far applied for the resettlement scheme – three Iranians, and one Rohingya from Myanmar – but officials in Phnom Penh have not yet approved their resettlement, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said yesterday.

It had not yet been determined whether the applicants were “legal”, he said, because it was not clear whether they had already received positive asylum assessments from Australia’s Immigration Department.

Prior to the applications for resettlement from four refugees, Australian immigration officials tried to tempt some to move by distributing a letter on Nauru that misrepresented life in Cambodia, which critics said smacked of desperation.

Refugee advocates have said the four’s claims were “fast-tracked” after they showed an interest in taking up the Australian government’s offer of cash and other benefits for being the first to relocate, in apparent contravention of the agreement between the two governments.

“This is just our initial information; we have not yet made a decision. There are four refugees that have applied, but we are still assessing whether or not it is legal, so we cannot make any announcement as we have not decided yet,” Kheng said.

Representatives of Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton did not respond to a request for comment.

A charter flight is expected to be scheduled to fly the refugees from the Pacific island of Nauru, where they have been held in an Australian-funded detention centre, in the coming weeks.

“Australia has already offered what is effectively a bribe to Cambodia to take refugees, and now there are reports that it is effectively doing the same with desperate asylum seekers in Nauru,” Pearson said. “This would be the Abbott government’s latest attempt to offload all responsibility for people who have fled war, ethnic cleansing, and atrocities.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE

MOST VIEWED

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Chinese influence to sweep Kingdom?

    Growing Cambodia-China ties have seen the latter’s influence sweep across the Kingdom through increased investments and tourism. The Asian giant has become the leading source of foreign funds in Cambodia, fuelling the construction sector with huge casino and hotel projects. Much of the growth

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National