Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara has begun a cautious new effort to send undocumented immigrants home.
No arrests have yet been made of people who lack the proper documentation to live, work or travel in Cambodia—the majority of whom are illegal Vietnamese prostitutes—but police have begun going from “house to house” to warn people, Chea Sophara said Sunday.
Whether or not a sweep is under way, the number of Vietnamese prostitutes seeking shelter at Afesip, a women’s NGO, has jumped in the last month, regional coordinator Pierre Legros said.
The organization is concerned that prostitutes will be jailed without authorities distinguishing between illegal immigrants and trafficking victims, Legros said.
There was no increase in women seeking shelter at the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, chief of monitoring Sourn Ratha said. However, the center does have a repatriation system in place with the Ministry of Interior and the Vietnamese embassy to help return illegal immigrants to Vietnam.
Two Vietnamese women working in the sex trade said last week that they have seen an increased night-time police presence at and around Phnom Penh nightclubs. The women are here illegally.
Chea Sophara said a sweep would not take place until proper procedures were in place for arrests, deportations and documentation. That will take about three weeks, he said.
“I want to meet with [the] Ministry of Interior and the NGOs to do it the right way,” he said.