Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Q&A: How legal is the resettlement?



Q&A: How legal is the resettlement?

Q&A: How legal is the resettlement?

From an international law perspective, is this resettlement scheme legal?
The refugee convention envisages that refugees should have durable solutions. In other words, they need a solution at some point and resettlement is one of those. Countries like Australia, when they receive people who are refugees, have generally allowed them to settle there because they have the capacity to do so. So while the refugee convention doesn’t preclude people being resettled somewhere else, this is an aberrannt approach. One of the objectives of the refugee convention is to help countries share protection responsibilities, but this looks like responsibility shifting.

Both Cambodia and Australia are signatories to the refugee convention, so what’s the problem here? 
We have to look to the extent to what protection and assistance is available on the ground. It’s known that Cambodia only hosts a small number of refugees and asylum seekers. There is no government support, and they are reliant on NGOs for assistance. There’s a lack of support services such as provision of mental health services, which are very important given that many refugees have suffered and continue to suffer from the effects of trauma. Given that there are already issues for Cambodian nationals with obtaining identity documents, access to land and so on, it’s likely these problems would be heightened for refugees.

Scott Morrison has said the refugee resettlement should not be a ticket to a first-class economy. How does this argument stand up in relation to the Cambodia deal?
I think Morrison is operating on the idea that as soon as you leave your country and cross over the border, you are OK, because you are no longer at risk of persecution. Just because you are not directly at risk from your persecutor, it does not mean you’re safe, you can receive adequate protection and you can lead a dignified life. The countries from which refugees come and end up in Australia, those transit countries can’t provide that sort of protection. Rather than bilateral deals with individual countries, Australia could make a much better contribution if it worked in a respectful and cooperative manner with its neighbours to build sustainable protection-oriented solutions.

Professor Jane McAdam, director at Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • Khmer cinema classics back on big screen for free at WB Arena’s outdoor movies series

    On a recent Saturday evening at WB Arena, Bunsong was enjoying a tasty BBQ meal with his family after work on the long tables that had been arranged out in front of the restaurant as they watched a Khmer action movie on a big outdoor

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the