30 September 2014

Australia and Cambodia sign refugee resettlement agreement

On 26 September, Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Cambodia’s Interior Minister Sar Kheng, signed a controversial agreement, aimed at resettling asylum-seekers in Cambodia, a country criticised for its deteriorating human rights record.

The Washington Post reports that according to a joint statement, Australia will use its expertise and experience to assist Cambodia to strengthen settlement support provided to refugees in Cambodia. As part of this commitment, Australia will bear the direct costs of the arrangement – amounting to AUD 40 million (USD 35 million) spread over four years- including initial support to refugees and relevant capacity building for Cambodia.

According to the BBC, under the deal -which has no cap on numbers- only those who choose to go to Cambodia will be resettled, with transfers likely to begin later this year. The same source reports that the plan will initially involve a small number of refugees moving to Cambodia, under a pilot phase of the project.

Amidst a flurry of criticism from human rights activists groups, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres qualified the freshly minted deal as a worrying departure from international norms, adding, within this specific context, that ‘International responsibility sharing is the basis on which the whole global refugee system works’ and expressing his hope that Australia will reconsider its approach.

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Source: The Washington Post | Cambodians protest Australia resettlement deal
Source: UNHCR | UNHCR statement on Australia-Cambodia agreement on refugee relocation
Source: BBC | Australia and Cambodia sign refugee resettlement deal

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