Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministers to sign refugee deal



Ministers to sign refugee deal

A bus at Christmas Island airport carries the first group of asylum seekers in 2012 to be transferred to Nauru by plane, as part of the regional processing arrangements made by the Australian Government.
A bus at Christmas Island airport carries the first group of asylum seekers in 2012 to be transferred to Nauru by plane, as part of the regional processing arrangements made by the Australian Government. DIBP

Ministers to sign refugee deal

Australian Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison will sign a pact with the Cambodian government on Friday to redirect refugees seeking asylum in his country to the Kingdom, the Foreign Ministry announced today.

The controversial deal – widely decried by rights groups, Cambodia's opposition party and members of Australia’s opposition – will be inked in a meeting with Interior Minister Sar Kheng during a two-day visit by the Australian delegation, according to a ministry press statement.

Morrison made a 24-hour visit to Phnom Penh in April, during which he met with Kheng for talks that built on a February visit by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, when the proposal was first put forward.

The deal has been marked by silence on the part of both governments, and no details regarding a timeline or plans for the refugees were forthcoming yesterday.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told the Post yesterday that he had no information regarding the number of potential refugees Cambodia had agreed to accept, when they will begin to arrive or where the government hopes to resettle them.

The Post reported in August that high-level Australian bureaucrats had visited properties in Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk province to assess possible resettlement sites.

General Sok Phal, director general of the Immigration Department, just two weeks ago attempted to bat down concerns of long-term institutionalisation, saying refugees could be successfully integrated into society.

“There is no need for them to live in a group. Of course, they will stay together for a while, and then they will separate,” he said.

But Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, yesterday said the deal was "shameful".

"It's truly cynical …[Cambodia] doesn't have the policies or resources to protect these people," he said.

He added that the "hard-headed" government of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was showing it was "more than willing to violate human rights in pursuit of what it considers its national interest".

The move will seriously damage refugee protection in the region, Robertson added.

"Governments with money … and power will be able to pick and choose refugees they want and refugees they don't want," he said. 

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Preah Sihanouk hit with travel ban

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has announced a temporary travel ban to and from the province, except for ambulances and trucks transporting goods. The announcement came after prime minister Hun Sen called on people in the province to travel only if necessary, and that people not

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said