Fifty-seven people, many of them Nigerian, were arrested during a church service in Tuol Svay Prey I commune in Chamkar Mon district on Sunday on suspicion of illegally being in the country, according to a municipal police official.
But more than half of the people arrested have been released after providing passports and valid visas, said Hy Pru, deputy municipal police chief in charge of foreigners. He added that thirty were released the same day as the raid while six or seven others were freed on Monday.
“But there are still about 20 foreigners in our police station,” Mr Pru said.
The majority arrested were Nigerian nationals but Filipino, Sierra Leone and Guinea citizens were also arrested on Sunday.
Mom Sitha, municipal foreigner police chief, said his department was still busy trying to determine the legal status of the detainees.
“We will reveal all in a report to the press [today] after we finish interrogating them,” Mr Sitha said.
Mr Pru said the Christian church was established two or three months ago but did not have a permit from the district governor, and neighbors complained it became very loud during services.
Phnom Penh International Airport police chief Chhuor Kimny said that generally tourist visas last for one month, but for some visitors that are deemed “suspicious,” officials check their financial status, hotel bookings and return tickets before issuing a visa permitting entry for seven days or less.
Mr Kimny claimed that police don’t want to discriminate against visitors from Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria, but all travelers from those three nations are considered “suspicious” because previous visitors have “created many problems.” Another problem, he claimed, is that some visitors from those three countries arrive with little money and cannot afford to return home.
“They did not obey our rules and they are not afraid of our police, which makes it hard for us,” Mr Kimny said.