Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nauru refugee says coming to Kingdom 'a big mistake'

Nauru refugee says coming to Kingdom 'a big mistake'

Three refugees from an Australian-run detention centre on Nauru leave Phnom Penh International Airport last year after travelling from Australia for resettlement in the Kingdom.
Three refugees from an Australian-run detention centre on Nauru leave Phnom Penh International Airport last year after travelling from Australia for resettlement in the Kingdom. Pha Lina

Nauru refugee says coming to Kingdom 'a big mistake'

The Australian government yesterday defended its handling of its controversial A$55 million (currently US$41.6 million) refugee deal with Cambodia after a Rohingya Muslim refugee who was transferred from Nauru under the agreement told Australian media that he is plagued by illness and fears he may die in the Kingdom.

Mohammed Rashid, 26, who reportedly suffers long-term kidney and lung problems, told Fairfax Media that he was admitted to hospital last week for a recommended 10 days but had been withdrawn by an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) official after only three, according to the media report.

“I fear that I will die here,” he was quoted as saying. “All sorts of things are going around in my head like I am a crazy person . . . I don’t feel safe.”

“It was a big mistake to come here.”

The news comes on the heels of last week’s blow to Australia’s scheme to outsource the resettlement of refugees who arrive by boat, when two Iranian refugees returned to their home country after living in Phnom Penh for less than nine months.

Rashid also said the Australian government had failed to fulfil a number of promises that were made to him in a bid to entice him to leave Nauru, where people seeking asylum in Australia are indefinitely detained.

He received $4,000 out of a promised $8,000, but had been scammed out of almost $2,000 when he paid for a motorbike he never received.

A spokesperson for Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton defended the way Rashid had been treated in Cambodia.

In a statement, the spokesperson said Rashid “continues to receive a very high level of support” from IOM, including face-to-face meetings each weekday.

“He has been offered additional services, including counselling, which he has declined to access,” the statement read.

The statement confirmed Rashid is currently receiving medical treatment and is eligible for health insurance for five years.

When pressed on why Australia sent a man with chronic health conditions to a nation with a dire lack of medical specialists, the spokesperson declined to comment.

The spokesperson also did not respond to questions about whether the immigration department would continue to encourage refugees on Nauru to resettle in Cambodia.

IOM spokesperson Joe Lowry declined to comment on Rashid’s individual case.

“We’re available to provide resettlement services, and we’re involved because we work in the best interests of the migrants,” Lowry said.

Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition based in Australia, said that the refugees’ long-term health would have been “the last thing Australia considered”.

“The [Australian] government was only interested in a political fix; they were never actually concerned with the health and welfare of the individuals,” Rintoul said.

“They are eking out an existence on the margins . . . The promises weren’t lived up to.”

“The stark reality is that [Cambodia and Nauru] are third world countries that have trouble maintaining their own population’s standard of living without Australia . . . asking them to surrender their commitment to human rights in return for money.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports