Cambodia refugee deal hits another snag
October 3, 2015 The Sydney Morning Herald
Only two more refugees on Nauru island are willing to take up an offer to live in Cambodia, reports Lindsay Murdoch.
Bangkok: Australia's controversial $55 million agreement to send refugees from the tiny Pacific island of Nauru to impoverished Cambodia has hit another snag.
Only weeks after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton flew to Cambodia to salvage the agreement and announce that four more refugees had agreed to take the one-way ticket, only two have now agreed to make the journey.
A van enters a residence temporarily housing the first group of asylum seekers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in June. Photo: Reuters
"We have sent officials for interviews but the result I have received is that only two among the four volunteered to come," Cambodia's Interior Minister Sar Kheng told a television station in Phnom Penh.
"The other two did not want to come and live in Cambodia," he said.
Cambodia last week flew a team of officials to Nauru to interview the three Iranians and Rohingya from Myanmar who had apparently indicated they were willing to give up their hopes of reaching Australia to live in Cambodia, where initially they would receive thousands of dollars in cash, training, help finding work, health insurance and accommodation in a luxury villa, all at Australia's expense.
Three of the four refugees transferred to Nauru are surrounded by Cambodian police officers as they arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport in June. Photo: Reuters
But after 12 months they would be expected to fend for themselves in a country where millions of people are forced to live on less than $2 a day and the regime of strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen is accused of entrenched corruption, human rights abuses and denial of basic freedoms.
Two Rohingya Muslim men on Nauru are expected to be flown to Cambodia soon, joining four other refugees from Nauru who arrived in the country in June.