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Cambodia, Australia Sign Contentious Refugee Deal

Australian Immigration Minister Scot Morrison, left, walks is accompanied by Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng, right, as they arriving for a signing ceremony of a controversial deal on resettlement of refugees inside the Interior Ministry, in Phnom P

Cambodia has inked a controversial agreement with Australia to begin taking refugees currently detained on a remote island in the South Pacific.

Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng met with Scott Morrison, Australian Minister of Immigration and Border Protection, Friday afternoon, signing a memorandum of understanding to begin the resettlement of the refugees, some 1,000 of whom are being detained on the island of Nauru.

Neither official addressed the media after the meeting, but in a joint statement they said Australia will handle transportation and relocation and Cambodia will determine “the number and the timing” of the resettlement.

The secretive deal, which comes with $40 million in Australian aid to Cambodia, has been widely criticized by international rights groups as a poor solution to a refugee crisis.

“This deal undermines refugee protection in the region, and around the world, because it makes developed countries think they can pick and choose which refugees they take, and which ones they can offload elsewhere simply by offering development assistance,” Elaine Pearson, Australia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Australia has found a new excuse to palm off the refugee problem rather than genuinely finding a regional solution that will involve Australia doing its fair share.”