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Only one of expected three refugees arrives

Refugees from Nauru arrive at Phnom Penh’s airport last year.
Refugees from Nauru arrive at Phnom Penh’s airport last year. Pha Lina

Only one of expected three refugees arrives

Only one of an expected three refugees based on Australia’s offshore detention centre on the island of Nauru arrived in Cambodia on Sunday, officials confirmed yesterday in the wake of conflicting reports.

The man, a refugee from Syria, touched down alone after Australian officials informed Cambodian authorities that the two others – reported to be an Afghan and Pakistani – would not be on the flight, refugee department director Tan Sovichea said.

“At first there were three volunteers to come, then the day that they were due to fly, we were told ‘not this time’,” Sovichea said. He did not know the reasons for their decision, but said they may still choose to come to Cambodia at a later date.

Sovichea added that the family of the refugee, who was previously reported to be Sri Lankan but is in fact from Syria, were welcome to visit and apply to stay permanently, but said the Kingdom “doesn’t have a law for the family reunion of refugees”.

The Syrian is the sixth refugee to take up the Cambodian option under the controversial A$40 million aid pact inked in 2014, but of his five predecessors, only one has remained.

The news comes in the wake of Australia’s opposition party declaring it would oppose the government’s proposed lifetime ban for refugees who try to reach Australia by boat, and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton promising to release details on a plan to resettle 700 refugees in a third country soon.

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