Seven more Cambodians deported from the U.S. arrived in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, despite the government making another request earlier this month to put deportations on hold until the two countries renegotiate their repatriation agreement.
The seven Cambodian citizens were repatriated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman said in an email.
Since 2002, 566 Cambodians have been deported from the U.S. under the bilateral agreement that, paired with U.S. immigration law, allows for the deportation of Cambodians who are legal residents of the U.S. and have served felony prison sentences there. Many immigrated to the U.S. as child refugees and have never lived in Cambodia.
Officials in Cambodia have repeatedly said they want to amend the agreement, citing hardships placed on the individuals and families of those who are deported.
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn said the U.S. had told Cambodia to continue accepting deported Cambodians, despite the government’s pleas.
“We made the request to halt deportations so that we can discuss more, but the U.S. didn’t respond and wants us to continue,” Mr. Sokhonn said. “We will continue to accept the deportees.”
On Wednesday, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak referred questions about negotiations between Cambodia and the U.S. to the Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, who could not be reached.
But he reiterated the government’s wish that the agreement be reviewed again, “because when those people come to Cambodia they cry because they’ve been forced to leave their families.”
© 2017, Matt Surrusco. All rights reserved.