Migration Body Prepared to Help Resettle Refugees From Nauru

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Tuesday said it was prepared to help facilitate a controversial plan to resettle in Cambodia refugees Australia is currently holding on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru, following a weeklong visit to the island by Cambodian officials.

In September, Cambodia signed a much-criticized deal with Australia to accept an unspecified number of the refugees on Nauru in return for an additional $35 million in Australian aid over the next four years. Cambodia has yet to take in any refugees, and last week’s trip to the island was the first by government officials since the deal was inked.

And though Australia has agreed to cover most of the related costs, the IOM says Cambodia approached the organization in October to ask for its assistance as well.

On Tuesday, IOM regional spokesman Joe Lowry said the organization, which is dedicated to helping promote humane and orderly migration, would help—so long as Cambodia agreed to its conditions.

“IOM has responded to the government of Cambodia’s request, indicating that it would be prepared to have a role in resettling the caseload from Nauru subject to certain conditions being present,” Mr. Lowry said.

“These conditions have been communicated to the government of Cambodia and are under consideration. This matter is a confidential one between a sovereign state and an international organization and we will not make them public.”

Mr. Lowry said the IOM would clarify its role once the details were worked out.

The IOM joined the Cambodian delegation’s visit to Nauru but declined to comment on the trip.

A spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, a Sydney-based advocacy group in contact with people on Nauru, said the Cambodian visitors toured Australia’s facilities on the island but left without meeting any refugees. The spokesman said asylum seekers were offered the chance to speak with the visitors but declined.

Cambodia and Australia negotiated the September deal in secret and were reluctant to even confirm the Cambodian delegation’s recent trip to Nauru.

Last week, a director at the Interior Ministry’s general department of immigration said that Kerm Sarin, head of the department’s refugee office, led the visit.

Contacted Tuesday, however, Mr. Sarin would neither confirm nor deny that he was on the island.

“I went to Australia for a visit, not to talk about refugees in Nauru,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Aun Pheap)

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