Cambodia Turns to International Migration Body to Resettle Refugees

Cambodia has reached out to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for help with resettling refugees it has agreed to take from Australia under a controversial deal signed last month, according to an IOM spokesman.

Australia plans to send an unspecified number of asylum seekers, currently being held offshore on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru, to Cambodia in exchange for givings an additional $35 million in aid over four years.

The agreement has been heavily criticized by rights groups and has been spurned by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which says it will have no role in facilitating the transfer.

Joe Lowry, the IOM’s Asia Pacific spokesman, said the organization, which is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration, had received a letter from the government “no more than three weeks ago” seeking help.

“We have been asked to help with the caseload that is expected to come to Cambodia. The Cambodian government has asked us to provide assistance,” he said.

Mr. Lowry said that a team from the IOM met with Cambodian officials on Friday to assess whether it would be willing to fulfill that request, but would not reveal which government officials or departments were involved in the talks.

He said the team would prepare a report for the IOM director-general, William Swing, for him to consider how to proceed.

When asked what kind of role the organization—which counts both Australia and Cambodia among its 156 member states—could potentially play in the resettlement process, Mr. Lowry replied: “I’m not going to try and preempt the director-general.”

Sok Phal, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said IOM representatives met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday and referred further questions to Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong.

When asked about the meeting, Mr. Kuong said he was unaware of it.

“About the refugees? I have no idea,” he said.

“I have no information about that. I am very busy with my work.”

(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)

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