Nauru refugees to be sent to Cam­bo­dia: Australia


Refugees re­jected by Australia will soon fly from the Pa­cific atoll of Nauru to be re­set­tled in Cam­bo­dia, the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment said Thurs­day.

A char­ter flight could fly the first refugees to be re­set­tled in Ph­nom Penh as early as Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to a copy of a fact sheet that the Refugee Ac­tion Col­lec­tive ad­vo­cacy group said has been cir­cu­lated at Nauru.

Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton’s of­fice did not spec­ify when the first group will fly un­der a bi­lat­eral agree­ment signed by Cam­bo­dia and Australia last Septem­ber. “The first group of vol­un­teers is an­tic­i­pated to de­part for Cam­bo­dia in the near fu­ture,” his of­fice said in a state­ment.

The agree­ment spec­i­fies that all refugees who leave the Aus­traliarun detention camp on Nauru must be vol­un­teers.

The fact sheet, dis­trib­uted by Aus­tralian of­fi­cials, tells refugees that “Cam­bo­dia is a safe coun­try where po­lice main­tain law and or­der.”

“It does not have prob­lems with vi­o­lent crime or stray dogs,” it said.

How­ever, the U.S. State Depart­ment Bureau of Diplo­matic Se­cu­rity re­ported this month that Cam­bo­dia’s crime rat­ing was “crit­i­cal.”

“En­demic cor­rup­tion” within the Cam­bo­dian po­lice and ju­di­ciary com­pounded safety and se­cu­rity prob­lems, lead­ing to “civil­ian vig­i­lante-style jus­tice,” the re­port for 2014 said.

It said ran­dom gun­fire in­ci­dents, as well as gun­fire ex­changes due to traf­fic ac­ci­dents, oc­curred fre­quently.

The in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Migration was send­ing an of­fi­cial to Nauru “with an ex­pec­ta­tion of pos­si­ble move­ments in the com­ing days,” IOM’s Bangkok-based spokesman Joe Lowry said Thurs­day.

IOM will start a cul­tural ori­en­ta­tion process on Nauru for refugees who want to go to Cam­bo­dia. It will also help them find hous­ing, jobs and learn the lan­guage once they ar­rive.

The deal with Cam­bo­dia will cost the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment more than 10 mil­lion Aus­tralian dol­lars (US$7.6 mil­lion) a year and has been con­demned by hu­man rights groups.

The fact sheet, dated April 10, prom­ises a one-off pack­age for the first who agree to be re­set­tled.

“Mov­ing to Cam­bo­dia pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for you and your fam­ily to start a new life in a safe coun­try, free from per­se­cu­tion and vi­o­lence, and build your fu­ture,” it said. “If you are not in the first group of refugees to set­tle in Cam­bo­dia, your as­sis­tance pack­age will be dif­fer­ent.”

Refugee Ac­tion Col­lec­tive spokesman Ian Rin­toul said he had heard of no one on Nauru ac­cept­ing the deal. “I do know they spoke to So­ma­lis yes­ter­day and said it was the last day for them to agree and none of them agreed,” Rin­toul said.

“They’re push­ing pretty hard around the place, but as far as I know, they’ve got no one yet,” he added.

The fact sheet of­fered “cash in hand and in a bank ac­count,” but did not spec­ify sums. The pack­age in­cludes help in find­ing work, and ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, lan­guage train­ing and health in­sur­ance for four years.

On ar­rival in Ph­nom Penh, refugees would be pro­vided free “vil­lastyle ac­com­mo­da­tion,” or “in the style of a ser­viced-apart­ment” for three months.

Af­ter that, refugees would re­ceive rental sup­port “for up to 12 months, and longer if you need it,” the doc­u­ment said.

Refugees could ap­ply for Cam­bo­dian cit­i­zen­ship af­ter seven years, and chil­dren born within that time would be rec­og­nized as Cam­bo­dian na­tion­als.

Australia re­fuses to re­set­tle refugees who at­tempt to reach its shores by boat. It pays Nauru to house asy­lum seek­ers and has a sim­i­lar deal with Pa­pua New Guinea.

More than 200 of the 1,200 asy­lum seek­ers on Nauru, in­clud­ing Ira­ni­ans, Pak­ista­nis, Afghans, So­ma­lis, Su­danese and Uighurs, had been as­sessed to be gen­uine refugees.

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