Minister Confirms Trip to Nauru to Screen Refugees

Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Wednesday said Cambodia would send officials to Nauru within weeks to start screening a new group of refugees interested in moving here as part of a resettlement deal with Australia.

He also said a recent leadership change in Canberra would have no effect on the scheme. Since Cambodia accepted Australia’s offer, one year ago, of an extra AU$40 million ($28.1 million) in aid in exchange for taking in an unspecified number of refugees Australia is holding on Nauru, only four people have taken up the offer, arriving in June.

One of the four, a Rohingya man who fled Burma, has since asked to be sent back home. Following media reports that the resettlement deal was collapsing, the interior minister told reporters Wednesday that a new group of refugees could be arriving soon.

“We will go to interview them to see whether they are volunteers and have refugee status,” he said on the sidelines of a private security seminar in Phnom Penh.

“We have heard that four want to come, and we will send [officials] at the end of September or early October.”

The controversial deal was signed under the leadership of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was ousted from the post by his party on Monday.

However, Mr. Kheng said his departure would not impact the resettlement plan.

“I think there is no problem and that it is Australia’s issue,” he said.

On Monday, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the four refugees to be vetted include three Iranians and a Rohingya, the same as the four already here.

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