The 253 illegal immigrants arrested in Sihanoukville earlier this month will be deported as soon as possible, senior government officials said Wednesday.
Youn Chhunly, director of the immigration department of the Ministry of the Interior, had no specific date for the return of the Afghani, Pakistani, Iranian and Indonesian immigrants, but said their return was being discussed with the International Organization of Migration and would occur “very soon.”
The immigration department is involved in a slow interview process with the immigrants. It is hampered to some extent by the language barrier. At the government’s request, the immigrants are in the care of the International Organization of Migration at a hotel in Phnom Penh. Should any of them request voluntary return to their home country, travel would be arranged by the IOM.
As of yet, none has requested asylum, said Indrika Ratwatte, senior regional liaison officer with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They would have been informed of that right as part of the interview process, he said.
Four Indonesian men and one Pakistani man thought to be ringleaders of the trafficking scheme were charged Tuesday with illegal entry into Cambodia and using fake travel documents. They are being held in Prey Sar prison.
On July 8 authorities arrested the would-be immigrants, including 11 women and 14 children, as they prepared to leave Sihanoukville, police said.