Sydney (dpa) – Australia insisted a multimillion-dollar deal with
Cambodia to take its refugees was on track Monday, despite reports
that the Phnom Penh regime was backing out.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop denied the deal was in danger of
collapsing, after a Cambodian Interior Ministry official reportedly
said his government had no plans to accept more refugees sent by
“We don’t have any plans to import more refugees from Nauru to
Cambodia,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak was quoted
as saying by the Cambodian Daily Monday. “I think the fewer we
receive the better.”
Only four refugees have so far been transferred from the
Australian-run detention camp on the island nation of Nauru to
Cambodia, as part of an aid package worth 55 million Australian
dollars (40 million US dollars), in exchange for accepting refugees.
The deal signed 12 months ago did not specify how many refugees
Cambodia would have to accept in order to qualify for the money.
An Iranian couple, one Iranian man and a Rohingya man from Myanmar
held in a Nauru camp agreed in June to transfer to Cambodia, after
they were refused entry to Australia.
The four are reportedly living in an Australian-funded villa in Phnom
Penh, where they are receiving training and education. They have not
been seen in public.
Bishop dismissed reports that relied on a statement by one official.
She said that she had a positive meeting with the Cambodian foreign
minister in early August, and insisted that Phnom Penh was keen to
harness the skills of foreign workers.
The opposition Labor Party’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles
called the deal with Cambodia “an expensive joke.”