PHNOM PENH —
Cambodian immigration officials are awaiting the final go-ahead to permit four refugees from the Pacific Island of Nauru to move to Cambodia.
The four refugees—one Rohingya and three Iranians—are the first of a potential 1,000, who are part of an agreement with Australia to take refugees in exchange for $30 million in aid money.
The deal has been roundly criticized by rights groups, who say Cambodia is not prepared to properly accept such refugees and that such an agreement violates the spirit of international law.
Sok Phal, general director of the Ministry of Interior’s department of immigration, told reporters over the weekend that the final approval for the refugees is now in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We sent our officials [to Nauru] three times, meaning we checked [documents], and the most important thing is their volunteering,” he said.
Critics say Cambodia is ill equipped to provide for refugees, considering it is struggling with endemic corruption, poverty and a poor human rights record.
Kem Ley, a social development researcher, said the deal also could create a bad precedent.
“We will allocate our national budget to be responsible for the survival of other people’s lives, but our budget will be slim when we receive more people and when Australia stops helping within a year or two,” he said.