UN Raises Alarm Over Threat to Return 13 Refugees

The U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva has raised alarm over threats by the Cambodian government to return 13 refugees from Vietnam to their home country, where they claim to have fled abuse by authorities.

“The Government of Cambodia has recognized their refugee claims and their return to Vietnam would constitute refoulement, and risks exposing the refugees to human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest and torture,” said a statement from OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville on Friday.

Last week, the government announced a January 10 deadline for the refugees to find a third country to settle in.

It also said previously that more than 200 Montagnard asylum seekers—whose refugee applications it has refused to process—would be given until February 6 to return to Vietnam, or would be sent back by force.

“We trust that this extension will give the Government time to reconsider their asylum requests in accordance with international standards, and that it would in any case not refoule the asylum seekers without the individual consideration of their claims that is their right,”

Mr. Colville said. Interior Ministry officials could not be reached Sunday.

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