Cambodia accepts transfer of 4 refugees held by Australia


– Undecided when 1 Rohingya, 3 Iranians previously detained at Nauru will be moved under controversial deal

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia’s government has granted final approval for four refugees to be transferred to the country as part of a controversial deal with Australia.

General Khieu Sopheak, Ministry of Interior spokesman, told the Phnom Penh Post on Thursday that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s approval had been received the day before.

“The government agreed for them to formally move to Cambodia,” he said. “The process is going forward with the working group and with Australia; when they will exactly come is still undecided.”

Among the four are a Rohingya man, an Iranian man and an Iranian couple who Australia had been holding on the South Pacific island of Nauru before moving them earlier this month to Darwin International Airport. The Sydney Morning Herald had reported that they were placed at an immigration accommodation near the airport.

Australia and Cambodia inked a $35-million bilateral agreement last September, stipulating that only genuine refugees who volunteer to go will qualify for relocation to Cambodia.

The signing of the deal between Australia’s then immigration minister, Scott Morrison, and Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng in Phnom Penh had been met with widespread criticism. Refugee advocacy groups said Australia was shirking its obligations to the U.N. refugee convention by passing off vulnerable people to one of the most corrupt countries in the world.