Gov’t Says It Will Only Take Willing Refugees

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong reiterated Wednesday that the government will only accept the refugees detained by Australia who volunteer to be resettled in Cambodia, and said that the possible locations in the country for their resettlement are still being studied.

Speaking at a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Namhong confirmed that discussions with the Australian government were focusing specifically on the asylum seekers being detained in a notorious detention center on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru.

“Sending refugees on the island of Nauru from Australia is a project requested by Australia,” Mr. Namhong said on the sidelines of the ceremony. “Samdech Techo [Hun Sen], the prime minister of Cambodia, has accepted it to review it and we are reviewing it.”

“We have created a working group to review this problem for discussion with the Australian side because even though we accept, it’s only if there is agreement from the refugees—with them not being forced by the Australian government to come,” Mr. Namhong said.

“Cambodia does not just accept this, it’s only if refugees agree to come to Cambodia—this is a very necessary point,” he reiterated.

Mr. Namhong also said that the government had yet to consider a location for refugees to be resettled in Cambodia if a deal is struck.

“The location is a technical problem for later,” the foreign minister told reporters. “We will discuss with each next time.”

Officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have said recently that a deal with the Australian government to resettle refugees could come soon.

According to operational figures regularly released by the Australian government, there were 1,162 people being held at the Nauru refugee detention center as of last Friday.

Unattributed news reports have claimed that the pending deal with the Australian government could see Cambodia take in 100 of the refugees in return for $40 million.

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