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Cambodia Will Take More Refugees in Deal With Australia


Journalists wait at Phnom Penh International airport, June 4, 2015, for the arrival of refugees from the Pacific Island of Nauru. (Phorn Bopha/VOA Khmer)

Journalists wait at Phnom Penh International airport, June 4, 2015, for the arrival of refugees from the Pacific Island of Nauru. (Phorn Bopha/VOA Khmer)

Cambodia has so far taken in only four refugees, and one of them, a Rohingya man, has asked to go back to Myanmar, the country he fled.

Cambodian officials say they will receive more refugees from the South Pacific island of Nauru, following a meeting between Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

Cambodia has signed a deal with Australia to accept refugees who are currently living in facilities on Nauru, in exchange for some $40 million in aid, an arrangement international rights workers have said is against the spirit of asylum laws.

Cambodia has so far taken in only four refugees, and one of them, a Rohingya man, has asked to go back to Myanmar, the country he fled.

Sri Thamrong, personal advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, told reporters Thursday that both sides are happy to continue the arrangement, but he did not provide the number of refugees who might be coming to Cambodia or say when that might happen.

Refugees could come “in groups of four to five, voluntarily,” he said, describing the agreement as a “government charity activity” meant to “reduce the numbers of human trafficking by the sea to Australia.”

Australian Embassy officials did not reply to a request for comment.

Moeun Tola, head of the labor program for the Community Legal Education Center, said the Australian government should reconsider the plan to send more refugees to Cambodia, which has insufficient services for them.

“Refugees want to live in a place or a country that follows human rights and has good social services,” he said. “The Australian government should think about this.”

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday announced an offer to resettle up to 12,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict.

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