The Ministry of Interior is tentatively scheduled to release 11 Cambodian deportees from an immigration department near Pochentong Airport, an official said Tuesday.
The deportees have been held at the Pochentong Foreign Immigration Department since Sept 11. The US deported them under an agreement which allows the US to deport Cambodians without US citizenship if they are convicted of aggravated felonies.
“I hope that they will start to leave [today],” said Chorn Vutha, the deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Immigration. “I want them to leave as soon as possible.”
Chorn Vutha said the deportees have remained at the Pochentong immigration office for so long because the official documents allowing for their release have not been completed. Chorn Vutha also said the relatives of the deportees in the US needed to “point out” who the relatives of the deportees in Cambodia are. Once the government recognizes who will sponsor the deportees in Cambodia, they can be released, he said.
“We don’t have enough funds to support them and yet they do not have a good place to go,” Chorn Vutha said.
He predicted that the deportees would be released today. One official at the Ministry of Interior disputed this.
“There is no date set when they will leave the immigration office,” said Meach Sophana, director of the Ministry of Interior’s Foreign Department. He said the deportees cannot be released because they are not officially detained at the immigration department. “They are at the half-way house waiting for the paper work to be finished.”
Although Meach Sophana said they were not being officially detained at the immigration office, visitors cannot interview the deportees and the deportees are not allowed to leave the office.
The 11 deportees currently are the second group from the US to arrive in Cambodia. In June, the US deported six Cambodians under an agreement signed in March. The first group of six was held at Pochentong for 12 days before being released.
An estimated 1,400 Cambodians in the US could be affected by the deportation agreement.