News / Asia

Controversial Cambodian Deal with Australia on Refugees Moves Closer

FILE - An exterior view of the government offices of the small island nation of Nauru is pictured, February 10, 2012.
FILE - An exterior view of the government offices of the small island nation of Nauru is pictured, February 10, 2012.
Robert Carmichael
A controversial refugee resettlement deal between Cambodia and Australia has moved closer, the Cambodian government says, with agreement “in principle” to accept an unknown number of people.
 
A senior official at Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ouch Borith, told reporters late Tuesday that his government had agreed “in principle” to take in refugees who are currently being held by Australia in detention centers on Nauru, an island in the South Pacific.
 
Ouch Borith insisted that Cambodia would not take the refugees unless they came voluntarily.
 
The details are still being worked out in a Cambodian inter-ministerial committee, and VOA understands that a final deal is likely to be months away.
 
The conservative government in Australia, which is one of Cambodia’s most important donors, came to power last year on a pledge to be tough on asylum-seekers.
 
Since news broke in February that Australia had asked Cambodia to take in refugees, rights workers have expressed concerns over the proposal given the country’s poor human rights record.
 
Others wonder why one of the world’s richest nations is trying to send refugees to one of the poorest.
 
Sister Denise Coghlan heads the Jesuit Refugee Service, which has been active in refugee issues in Cambodia since 1990. Although she cautions that many details are yet to emerge, she said there are a couple of positives that come with Cambodia’s decision.
 
“Is that Cambodia is willing to offer hospitality where Australia is not. For me that’s really important because the climate of the world is against refugees now. There’s an openness to receiving them. So that’s one," Sister Denise explained. "And then they’ve also said they’d live in community rather than detention centers like Australia’s concocting. And then they also said - or Ouch Borith is quoted as saying - that people have to want to come, you know they have to agree to come to Cambodia.”
 
On the negative side, she added, Cambodia has many displaced people of its own. Those include thousands of villagers evicted from their land, migrants and trafficked people, as well as tens of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese who are stateless within Cambodia.
 
There are also legal shortcomings with any resettlement plan. Although Cambodia’s current process offers temporary protection for refugees, there is nothing in place to allow such people to eventually convert that temporary status after seven years into residency and full citizenship.
 
“There’s nothing in place - there’s no way that people can do that as yet in the Cambodian legal system. So they need to address the gaps in both the nationality law and the immigration law and the refugee law, which means residency cards, and they need to be able to grant people work permits," Sister Denise said.
 
Setting aside Cambodia’s professed willingness to take in refugees, Sister Denise is particularly scathing about Australia’s role.  “I think it’s absolutely shameful of Australia. As I’ve said many times before, Australia’s a rich country, it has lots of space, it has a very competent legal system and processes, and there’s no reason whatsoever why it can’t accept the 1,000-plus people that are on Nauru who are determined to be refugees,” she said.
 
Others have expressed their concerns, among them veteran rights activist Ou Virak who was himself a child refugee after the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. In a Facebook post Wednesday, Ou Virak said the current situation left many questions unanswered including, for example, whether children would be able to access their right to an education.
 
Cambodian officials have said that offering to take in refugees is in keeping with the country’s international obligations, in much the same way as it has contributed peacekeepers and deminers to U.N. operations in recent years. Authorities have repeatedly denied they are holding out for financial sweeteners from Australia to agree to the refugee deal.
 
The comments by Foreign Affairs Ministry official Ouch Borith’s comments announcing the agreement in principle came after a meeting between Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and the U.N.’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Flavia Pansieri, who is currently visiting Cambodia.
 
Pansieri later told reporters that her office stood ready to help Cambodia meet the necessary standards to ensure the human rights of the refugees are upheld.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs