Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN slams Australia’s choice not to accept refugees



UN slams Australia’s choice not to accept refugees

Refugees from an Australian-run detention centre in Nauru and their handlers leave Phnom Penh International Airport in 2015 after travelling to the Kingdom for resettlement.
Refugees from an Australian-run detention centre in Nauru and their handlers leave Phnom Penh International Airport in 2015 after travelling to the Kingdom for resettlement. Pha Lina

UN slams Australia’s choice not to accept refugees

The UN’s refugee agency has slammed Australia in a statement for reportedly informing the agency it would no longer accept refugees it had previously agreed to take in, telling the body to relocate them to the US or Cambodia instead.

Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok, said the body is concerned about Australia’s “outsourcing” of refugees to other countries after it struck deals with the US and Cambodia to take in many of the refugees it has controversially detained in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for years.

“We were also concerned about implementation challenges and that sending large numbers of refugees to Cambodia – which is not a resettlement country – could challenge its absorption capacity,” Tan said.

In its statement, the UNHCR said it had “no other choice” but to recommend the relocation of all refugees to the US.

Tan said the UNHCR could not comment on whether Australia had plans to send more refugees to Cambodia.

Kerm Sarin, director of administration at the Ministry of Interior’s Refugee Department, said he had not heard of any plans to relocate additional refugees from Nauru to Cambodia.

The 2014 deal between Australia and Cambodia to resettle the refugees was controversial, with human rights groups accusing the Australian government of offloading its obligation to other countries. Australia agreed to give approximately A$40 million in aid to Cambodia as part of the deal.

Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) shakes hands with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop during a meeting in 2014 on her visit to the Kingdom's capital. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP
Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) shakes hands with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop during a meeting in 2014 on her visit to the Kingdom's capital. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

Only seven people have been resettled in Cambodia since 2014, and of those, only three remain. The rest chose to return to their countries of origin.

Roughly 1,100 refugees are still detained on Nauru after attempting to reach Australia, according to Ian Rintoul, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney, a refugee advocacy group.

He said most of those who remain on Nauru do not want to go to Cambodia.

“There’s no future, no security, no way to get educated or get the things they left their own countries for,” Rintoul said. “The only people that have ever gone to Cambodia saw it as a stepping stone to get out of Nauru to get somewhere else.”

Chris Lom, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration in the Asia-Pacific region, which was tasked by the Australian government with helping resettle the refugees in Cambodia, also said he believes that most refugees did not want to come to Cambodia.

“The fact that they thought they would go to the US or to Australia means that Cambodia will be a down-the-list priority,” Lom said.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection could not be reached.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Hun Sen: Lakes filled in for national developments

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced continued operations to fill some lakes in Phnom Penh to create land for developments, though he is against the unrelated practice of damming rivers or blocking waterways. Speaking at the inauguration of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport

  • Local media loses a giant, and The Post a great friend

    Cheang Sokha, a gifted and streetwise reporter who rose to the highest ranks of Cambodian media and was beloved for his sharp intelligence, world-class humour and endless generosity, died on Friday in his hometown of Phnom Penh. He was 42. His wife, Sok Sophorn, said he

  • PM asks India for vaccine help

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking assistance from India for the provision of Covid-19 vaccines as the country has produced its own vaccine which is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 300 million Indians this year. The request was made during his meeting with