An Iranian asylum seeker has become the second person to accept a controversial Cambodia resettlement package, a refugee advocate said yesterday, adding that Australia was attempting to lure asylum seekers into the deal by insinuating they would officially become refugees.
Australia’s Refugee Action Coalition Ian Rintoul, alleged Australian officials, in their desperation to find candidates, were approaching asylum seekers on the Pacific Island of Nauru, with the implication being that their claims would be decided favourably if they agreed.
He said one asylum seeker, an Iranian who had been on the Pacific island for 20 months, had accepted the package to resettle, which has been heavily criticised by human rights groups.
“[The Iranian] is an asylum seeker and he’s been told he can go to Cambodia now the [Immigration Minister Peter Dutton] has also said that the people who go to Cambodia will be refugees; there’s a very strong implication by accepting the agreement, you will be a refugee.”
Ali, a man identifying himself as a Pakistani refugee on Nauru, also said Australian officials were approaching asylum seekers, although he was aware of the Iranian man’s case. “They [pressured] them that’s [sic] a good deal,” he said, via message.
A spokeswoman for the Immigration Minister denied the claim. “Only those found to be genuine refugees will be offered the deal,” she said.
According to Cambodian Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, a Myanmar Rohingya refugee has already accepted the deal, part of $31 million agreement struck between Australia and the Kingdom. However, it’s unclear if flights to Cambodia have been scheduled.
According to Ali, about 300 people, including refugees, protested on Nauru yesterday chanting “Cambodia never ever”, and “Want justice, want freedom, no more Nauru.”