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lung problems, told Fairfax Media that he was admitted to hospital last week for a recommended 10 days but had been withdrawn by an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) official after only three, according to the media report.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

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Phnom Penh underpass opens to ease traffic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced a temporary opening of the 488m underpass at the Chaom Chao roundabout in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, which was recently completed to connect traffic from National Road 4 to Russian Federation Blvd. The move is to reduce

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from