18 More Montagnards Await UNHCR Attention

Eighteen more Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam have arrived in the jungles of Mondolkiri province, and are waiting for assistance from the UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees, an official with local rights group Adhoc said Sun­day.

News of the Sept 9 arrivals, of which Adhoc only recently became aware, follows the arrival in Phnom Penh Friday of 14 other Mon­tagnards who are now under UNHCR protection.

“Six have got malaria and now they are hiding in the jungle,” Sam Sarin, Adhoc provincial coordinator, said of the new group. Information about their ages and genders is not yet available, he added.

The 14 who reached Phnom Penh Friday left behind a woman who was too sick to travel, Sam Sarin said. “She was very, very sick,” he said. “But now she’s getting better. She can eat, she can get up because villagers are helping her.”

UNHCR spokeswoman Deborah Backus said the 14 are resting and will soon undergo a nationality check and be briefed on the refugee status determination process, which can last up to a year.

The UNHCR announced Friday it had received permission from the government to travel to Mondolkiri to collect asylum seekers. “UNHCR is eager to depart as soon as possible but the departure date of the joint mission is still under consideration by the government,” the agency said in a statement.



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