Australia, Cambodia to sign refugee resettlement deal

Critics are concerned given Cambodia’s chequered history when it comes to accommodating refugees.

Australia, Cambodia to sign refugee resettlement deal

World Bulletin / News Desk

Cambodia and Australia will sign a deal Friday allowing Australia to resettle its unwanted foreign refugees in the poor Southeast Asian nation, according to a statement by Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry released Wednesday.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop first made the request of the Cambodian government during a visit to Phnom Penh in March. Now it appears the deal is going ahead despite considerable opposition by Australia’s Greens Party and human rights groups, who are concerned Cambodia has neither the resources nor the rights record to cope with an influx of refugees.

“Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng...and the Hon. Scott Morrison will sign a memorandum of understanding...relating to the resettlement of refugees in Cambodia” on Friday, the statement by the Foreign Ministry read.

Spokesman for the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh Simon Fellows declined to comment on the ministry’s statement Wednesday, while ministry spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached.

Australia’s policy on asylum seekers has been roundly criticized by rights groups who say the country is trying to fob off its responsibility for refugees trying to reach Australia by boat to third countries.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was elected last year after he pledged to “stop the boats,” and Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific already have detention centers for their neighbor housing thousands of asylum seekers stopped on their way to Australia.

Critics are concerned about the plan to resettle asylum seekers in Cambodia given Cambodia’s own chequered history when it comes to accommodating refugees.

In 2009 Cambodia deported 20 Muslim Uighur asylum seekers back to China where they were given lengthy jail terms. China subsequently pledged $1 billion-worth of investment to Cambodia.

“I think Australia has the capacity to look after the refugees themselves,” Denise Coghlan, who heads the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, told the Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

“Cambodia doesn’t have the mental health capacity to look after these people and Cambodia’s own people are searching for jobs,” she said.

Australia is one of Cambodia’s largest foreign aid donors, giving more than $90 million a year to the impoverished nation.

Last Mod: 24 Eylül 2014, 10:15
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