Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Immigration chief meets Australia counterpart

Immigration chief meets Australia counterpart

Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton talks with Police General Sok Phal about refugee resettlement yesterday at the Ministry of Interior in Phnom Penh.
Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton talks with Police General Sok Phal about refugee resettlement yesterday at the Ministry of Interior in Phnom Penh. IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT

Immigration chief meets Australia counterpart

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton yesterday met Cambodia’s senior immigration official, a day after holding talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng over the A$40 million refugee resettlement scheme.

A delegation led by Dutton that also included Major General Andrew Bottrell, the “operational and tactical liaison” for the refugee transfers, held a morning meeting with General Sok Phal, director-general of the Immigration Department.

Officials, however, remained tight-lipped following the meeting. A spokeswoman for Dutton’s office said only that the Australians “were very encouraged by today’s meetings and are grateful for the high level of engagement during our visit”.

“We look forward to continuing to work together to implement the next successful stage of the [agreement].”

Kerm Sarin, head of the Refugee Department, said no details of the resettlement project were discussed at the meeting.

Leul Mekonnen, head of the International Organization for Migration in Cambodia, also met the Australian delegation yesterday. In a statement, the organisation said it was committed to “serving the needs of the refugees through the continued provision of a robust suite of settlement services”.

Since the resettlement scheme was signed on September 26, 2014, it has been cloaked in secrecy. Australia agreed to provide an additional A$40 million (currently about $28.3 million) in aid to Cambodia as part of the arrangement, and in May announced it would spend an estimated A$15.5 million more to fund resettlement services for refugees who agree to move from detention on the Pacific island of Nauru.

The meetings this week came after it was reported that one of the initial four refugees accepted – a Rohingya from Myanmar – who took up the offer of resettlement in Cambodia in June, had applied for a visa to return to his homeland.

In a statement released yesterday, Dutton’s office said that Hun Sen and Kheng were “committed to facilitating further resettlement of refugees from Nauru who have expressed interest in moving to Cambodia and to measures to accelerate the integration of refugees into Cambodian society”.

Ian Rintoul of Refugee Action Coalition Sydney, however, said that Dutton’s visit was an attempt to “paper over the collapse” of the deal.

“I am sure that Cambodia is ready to accept more refugees .But the reality is that refugees are simply not interested in being transferred to Cambodia,” he said. “The experience of those transferred so far has only confirmed the view that there is no viable resettlement possible in Cambodia.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Call for boycott of Angkor unacceptable

    Dear Editor, I wish to express my strong disagreement on the article published by Traveller for their website with the title Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid. Below is my opinion of the article. It is obviously free for the Traveller to

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • Probe underway after wreckage of drone with Chinese characters found

    Air Force Command spokesman Prak Sokha said on Sunday that investigations are underway regarding the wreckage of a drone that was recovered in Koh Kong province’s Koh Sdech commune in Kiri Sakor district. The wreckage has been taken to the capital for further examination,

  • Gov’t slams UN rapporteurs over Sokha trial statement

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva deplored the statement of three UN special rapporteurs who claimed that Kem Sokha’s trial was “tainted” due to irregularities. The reaction

  • No power shortages next dry season, says energy minister

    Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has assured the public that Cambodia will not suffer power shortages during the next dry season. Speaking on local TV on Tuesday, Sem projected a rise in power demand during 2020’s dry season – which starts in November and

  • Gov’t takes steps to lower logistics, transport costs

    With the threat of losing trade privileges in the EU drawing closer, the government is taking measures to reduce logistics and transportation costs to safeguard the Kingdom’s competitiveness. The EU is due to decide whether or not to withdraw the Kingdom’s trade privileges