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

  • Website advises travellers to stay clear of Angkor Wat

    An Australian website has advised travellers to avoid Angkor Wat during their trip to Southeast Asia because the ancient temple is showing signs of rapid erosion and faced water management issues. In a recent article entitled Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US

  • Passenger taxi boat ridership sinks despite free services

    Passenger taxi boat traffic has dropped by about five per cent compared to the same period last year, despite the government providing free service for garment workers until next year, Phnom Penh Autonomous Bus Transportation Authority director Ean Sokhim said on Monday. In 2018, the Phnom

  • Shipments of mango to South Korea poised to begin this week

    Exports of Cambodian mangoes to South Korea will begin this week after Korean authorities gave the nod. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Department of Plant Protection, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Requirements director Ker Monthivuth told The Post on Sunday that after several inspections of

  • Kingdom drafting new law to strengthen immigration

    The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it had formed a working group to draft amendments to the Law on Immigration. Its secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post that the amendments will strengthen the management of immigrants in line with the current situation.

  • Qatar Airways to connect Doha and Siem Reap town

    Qatar Airways Company QCSC has announced a new route connecting Qatar’s capital Doha with Siem Reap, a move hailed by local officials as a significant step to boost tourist numbers. A Qatar Airways representative, speaking at the Kuwait Aviation Show, announced on Thursday that