PHNOM PENH —
Of the five refugees Cambodia has so far settled in a deal with the Australian government, at least three have returned home.
The first to go was a Rohingya man from Myanmar, in June 2015. Now officials say an Iranian couple has left Cambodia for home, after only a few months in Cambodia.
Refugees coming to Cambodia through the controversial 2014 deal had sought asylum in Australia, but were being held among many at facilities on the Pacific Island of Nauru.
Kem Sarin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told VOA Khmer the Iranian couple had become “homesick and decided to return their home country.”
That leaves just one Rohingya and one Iranian refugee remaining in Cambodia under the deal. They are still under the watch of the resettlement program, through the Ministry of Interior, and are studying Khmer, Kem Sarin said. There are no applications from other refugees on Nauru to be resettled in Cambodia, he added.
The new departures cast new doubt on a program that has been widely criticized by rights groups as counter to the spirit of international law.
Suon Bunsak, executive secretary for the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, told VOA Khmer the resettlement program has been a “failure” and “disappointment.”
Cambodia should not accept any more refugees, he said, because the country’s insufficient public services constitute “a violation of refugees’ rights.”