Nine Cambodians deported from the US arrived yesterday in Phnom Penh, days after a US judge temporarily blocked a flight set to carry more than 50 Cambodian deportees to the Kingdom.
Bill Herod, founder of the Returnee Integration Support Center, said the new arrivals are not covered under that US court case, which is focused on Cambodians who were detained by US immigration in the past but subsequently released.
“All [are] delighted to be off the plane after two days in shackles . . . Much laughter and friendly conversation with clients new and old,” Herod said in a message.
The deportation program has been a flashpoint in US-Cambodian relations after the Kingdom temporarily stopped accepting new deportees last year, citing human rights concerns.
Most of those whose have been deported arrived in the US as refugees and have never been to Cambodia or learned to speak Khmer. Many were unaware they didn’t have citizenship when they committed the crimes that precipitated their deportation.
Ministry of Interior immigration official Dim Ra confirmed the nine deportees were among the group set to be deported this week.
According to Ra, the deportees had been convicted of a range of crimes, including drug charges and murder.
“All nine told us they don’t have relatives in Cambodia, so we sent them to the US Embassy and the Returnee Integration Support Center NGO to support them,” Ra said.