Officials tour Nauru, fail to meet refugees

Officials tour Nauru, fail to meet refugees

A Cambodian delegation that arrived in Nauru on Tuesday for high-level meetings to progress a controversial refugee resettlement scheme has toured Australian-run detention centres on the island, according to a rights group.

But while three Cambodian officials were “being seen all around the camps and Nauru”, they have not met any of the more than 1,000 asylum seekers and refugees face to face as had been expected, said Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition.

An MoU signed by Cambodia and Australia in September agreed that refugees given the option to relocate to the Kingdom, instead of staying on Nauru, would be first briefed on Cambodian culture and living conditions by government officials.

“[The Cambodians] were taken to visit the detention centre and the refugee camp,” Rintoul said, adding that the officials did not speak directly to refugees.

“I am told that Australian officials asked a select few people in the detention centre if they wanted to talk to the Cambodians but nobody wanted to.”

Kem Sarin, director of the Ministry of Interior’s refugee office, which carries out refugee status determinations, is part of the delegation, according to a source close to the matter.

Only asylum seekers processed as genuine refugees will be eligible for resettlement in Cambodia under the voluntary scheme. Australia will meet resettlement costs and is also giving the Kingdom an extra $35 million in aid over four years.

The Australian Immigration Department has refused to confirm the Nauru meetings or comment on ongoing discussions.

The Cambodian officials were still on Nauru yesterday.

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