Two More Refugees to Arrive From Nauru

Cambodia will take in two more refugees being held by Australia on the South Pacific island of Nauru as part of Phnom Penh’s controversial resettlement deal with Canberra, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said Thursday, on top of the four refugees already here.

Mr. Kheng made the announcement in an interview broadcast live by local television station PNN on Thursday, following the return of a Cambodian delegation that visited Nauru to meet the applicants and confirm that they were coming voluntarily.

Australia told Cambodia that it had a total of four new volunteers for the delegation to meet, but the minister said two decided to pull out.

“We assigned the officials to interview them,” he said. “The preliminary report I have received from the general department of immigration of the Ministry of Interior is that among the four, only two have volunteered to come and two did not want to settle in Cambodia.”

Mr. Kheng did not say when the two would arrive or why the others had changed their minds.

The news came just over a year after Cambodia signed off on the resettlement deal, under which it agreed to take in an unspecified number of the refugees Australia is holding in camps on Nauru in return for an additional AU$40 million (about $28 million) in aid over four years.

The first four refugees to arrive as part of the deal landed in Phnom Penh in June and have been sequestered inside a gated villa in the south of the city since. The group includes three Iranians and a Rohingya man from Burma, who has asked to return home.

During his interview, Mr. Kheng said all the paperwork clearing the Rohingya man’s departure from Cambodia had been completed and that his repatriation was now up to Burma.

The Burmese Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.

Contacted by telephone, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Burma had cleared his return and was in the process of preparing his travel documents, which could take another month.

But General Sopheak’s description of the two new volunteers on their way to Cambodia differed from that of Mr. Kheng.

The four volunteers the Cambodian delegation had gone to Nauru to meet included three Iranians and a Rohingya man, like the first group that came in June. But Gen. Sopheak said all four of them had changed their minds and that the two coming to Cambodia were not among them.

“Both of them are Rohingya,” he said of the two who had agreed to resettle here. “The other four, they withdrew.”

Gen. Sopheak said the pair would likely arrive “in a few weeks,” but, like Mr. Kheng, did not know why some volunteers had withdrawn.

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