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Four more of Australia's unwanted to head to Cambodia

By Lauren Crothers
September 15, 2015

Cambodian Interior Minister tells Anadolu Agency that 4 further refugees - 3 Iranians and a Rohingya Muslim - will be resettled as part of controversial deal with Australia

PHNOM PENH -- Cambodian officials are to assess a group of four refugees who “volunteered a few months ago” to be resettled in Cambodia as part of a landmark deal with Australia, the Interior Minister confirmed on Tuesday.

General Khieu Sopheak told Anadolu Agency that the three Iranians and one Rohingya Muslim -- presently detained on the South Pacific island of Nauru -- will be following in the footsteps of the first refugee volunteers once they have had their paperwork approved by the government.

“We have been informed that there are four again who are volunteering to come to Cambodia, and we are going to send officers to meet them directly on Nauru, but they have not departed yet. We are waiting to the end of this month, or beginning of next month,” he said Tuesday.

That delegation of officers does not have the power to approve the transfer, he said, but they would assess the volunteers and then deliver the necessary paperwork back to government officials in Cambodia.

Those officials - as was the case with the first intake of refugees -- will give the green light if it is deemed appropriate.

The first four refugees -- also three Iranians and one Rohingya -- have been living in a gated villa in southern Phnom Penh since their arrival in June.

Sopheak said the new arrivals would join them there once they arrive.

The Rohingya man from the first intake, however, has already made a formal request at the Myanmar Embassy to be sent back to Myanmar, where Rohingya people are not officially recognised.

Activists have claimed they are also routinely subject to harassment - suspected of being state sponsored - persecution and even murder.

Critics of the deal, which cost Australia A$55 million ($39 million) in aid and resettlement costs, say it is using Cambodia as a dumping ground, and that Cambodia does not respect the rights of refugees.

Last week, Sopheak was quoted in local media as saying that nearly 200 Montagnard asylum seekers who crossed in to Cambodia would have to leave within the next three months, or face forcible deportation.

In 2009, Cambodia deported 20 Muslim Uighur asylum seekers back to China at gunpoint.

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