Hun Sen Clarifies Australia Refugee Agreement

Prime Minister Hun Sen has once again defended his government’s decision to resettle asylum seekers intercepted by Australian authorities and detained on the tiny island nation of Nauru, this time in a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

In the letter, dated November 17 and obtained Sunday, Mr. Hun Sen says the September 29 deal inked by Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison follows international and humanitarian standards.

The letter came in response to a letter of inquiry sent by National Assembly Vice President Kem Sokha, the country’s deputy opposition leader, via Mr. Samrin in late October.

“[T]he housing of refugees in Cambodia is based on a voluntary and humanitarian foundation,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote. “Thus the refugees who come to Cambodia must agree via a written document without any coercion.”

Mr. Hun Sen says in the letter that Cambodia is currently home to 85 refugees from places including Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, the Congo and Somalia, and that any refugees who agree to be transported from Nauru would be supported by the Australian government.

“In accepting the refugees, the Australian side will be responsible for the costs, including the transport of refugees to Cambodia, temporary shelter, food, daily clothes, language interpretation services, health insurance within five years, and the provision of support for one year during their integration into Cambodian communities,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote.

“If any refugees want to return back to their home countries or to resettle in any country after they leave the shelters within a year, Australia will provide support for their departure to their original countries or any countries where the refugees want to resettle,” the prime minister writes.

The letter concludes by saying that a large number of prominent Cambodians were previously resettled as refugees by countries around the world, including Australia, and that Cambodia is now in an appropriate position to return the courtesy.

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