Cambodia – Some 180,000 undocumented Cambodian migrants are estimated to have crossed back into their country from Thailand in an exodus which started ten days ago and is only now showing signs of slowing.
Another 10,000 migrants are expected to make the crossing today at the Poi Pet border post, as IOM continues to work alongside the Cambodian government to provide transport to prevent a dangerous bottleneck of returning migrant workers.
While the reasons for the mass movement are unclear, it appears that most of the undocumented Cambodian migrants believed to have been in Thailand are now back in their homeland. But IOM cautions that earlier estimates of the number of Cambodians in Thailand may not be accurate.
Conditions at the border are basic, but there is no indication that the humanitarian situation is giving any cause for alarm, thanks to an efficient transport pipeline that continues to function from early morning until late at night.
IOM Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Andrew Bruce visited Poi Pet yesterday to assess the IOM-led humanitarian operation, which is supplementing the Cambodian government’s own efforts.
IOM has been hiring coaches to provide free transport back to their home provinces for the most vulnerable migrants, mainly women travelling with children. Males, who make up more than 60 per cent of the caseload, are being asked to travel in military trucks. So far, IOM has directly assisted almost 6,000 of the most urgent cases.
“While it appears that we are now past the peak migrant flows, now we are taking nothing for granted and we will stay here, funds permitting, until there is no longer a need for our services,” said Mr Bruce. “This rapid movement of people is unprecedented in this region in recent years, outside of conflict and natural disasters.”
IOM’s intervention is being undertaken by a small team of international and Cambodian staff in Poi Pet, backed up by the national office in the capital Phnom Penh and the regional office in Bangkok, Thailand.
A medical doctor has joined the team from IOM’s office in Myanmar. She is ensuring that all migrants under IOM’s care are fit to travel, and is also offering advice and support to local medical staff.
“While IOM is leading the response to this migration crisis we are extremely grateful to our partners in the UN Country Teams in Cambodia, as well as NGOs and local individuals who are providing various types of assistance to migrants on the border,” said Bruce.
“Naturally we are also thankful for the financial support we have received from donors. This situation could have quickly become life-threatening, had we not acted swiftly and decisively.”
For more information please contact:
In Phnom Penh:
Leul Mekonnen, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Tel. +855 12 900 131
In Poi Pet:
Brett Dickson, Email: email@example.com – Tel. +855 12 222 132
Joe Lowry, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Tel. +66 81 870 8081