Cambodia resettlement deal still stands
14 November 2016 – The nascent refugee resettlement agreement between Australia and the United States will not affect Cambodia’s own voluntary transfer deal for refugees detained on the Pacific island of Nauru, a Cambodian official said today.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced yesterday that Canberra had reached a “one-off” agreement with Washington with regard to refugees detained in its offshore processing centers on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.
According to that deal, refugees will now have the option of resettling in the U.S.
Prior to this, their only other options were returning to their countries of origin or resettling in Cambodia, as per a A$40-million ($30-million) deal signed with Phnom Penh in 2014.
To date, only six people have taken up that offer, and four of those have since returned to their home countries of Myanmar and Iran.
On Monday, The Cambodia Daily said the U.S. deal was news to Cambodian officials, who were not told of it in advance.
Kerm Sarin, a spokesman for the general department of immigration, told Anadolu Agency on Monday that Cambodia does not believe the new agreement will affect its own arrangement with Australia, nor the money pledged.
“It doesn’t make any change even though they made a contract with the U.S.,” he said.
“[We] have a voluntary [deal] from Nauru to Cambodia so whatever contract they have with the U.S. won’t affect Cambodia anyway; Cambodia still stands on the MoU [memorandum of understanding]… it doesn’t deal with the aid money.”
The office of Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier in the day, it sent out a transcript of an interview Dutton gave to the RN Breakfast show in Australia, in which he said Australia had “been in negotiations with the United States for a long period of time and there are other countries we’re in sensitive conversations with at the moment so all of that will continue”.
“There are options for people to go back to their countries of origin and if people have been found not to be refugees then this deal is not applicable to them,” he said.