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UNHCR Expresses Concern Over Forced Deportations

Ethnic Montagnards look from behind the gates of their temporary UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and IOM (International Organization for Migration) administered quarters in Phnom Penh, file photo.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed concern for the forced deportation of 36 Montagnards to Vietnam last month.

The refugees were apparently seeking asylum but were caught by authorities in Ratanakkiri province before they could make it to Phnom Penh.

A total 45 known Montagnards—an ethnic minority in Vietnam that claims persecution there—have been arrested and deported since December.

Thirteen have made it to Phnom Penh, where their cases are being reviewed by Cambodian officials.

Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for UNHCR, told VOA Khmer Thursday the agency has expressed its concerns in an official letter to the government.

“The return of people seeking asylum without letting them access refugee determination procedures constitutes refoulement (ie sending individuals back to a place there their lives and freedoms could be in danger) and is contrary to international law,” Tan said in an email.

“UNHCR continues to advocate with the Cambodian authorities that people seeking asylum must be able to access the national asylum process, as the 13 who came before them did,” she said.