Australia says a multimillion-dollar deal with Cambodia to take its refugees is on track, despite reports that the Phnom Penh government was backing out. Australia has vowed to stop asylum seekers sailing from Indonesia and Sri Lanka and landing on its shores, instead intercepting boats and shifting the people to camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Aljazeera reports:
As part of the deal signed last September some refugees from Nauru were to be resettled in Cambodia in exchange for Australian aid, but only four have arrived since then. Cambodia is slated to get 40 million Australian dollars ($28.56m) in additional aid regardless of how many asylum seekers it takes in.
A spokesman for Australia opposition, Richard Marles, described the Cambodia deal as “an expensive joke”. Cambodian interior ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak told the Reuters news agency that they “have no plans to receive more refugees from Nauru”. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday denied the deal had collapsed.
“Cambodia is committed to a regional solution and has committed through a memorandum of understanding with the Australian government to resettle some asylum seekers who are found to be genuine refugees.
“Cambodia is an aspiring country, it wishes to increase its GDP, It wishes to harness the skills of foreign workers and in this way, they can resettle people into Cambodia and help boost their GDP,” Bishop told reporters in Sydney.