Asia Cambodia, Australia ink new refugee transfer deal

Cambodia, Australia ink new refugee transfer deal

 Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton

(AA) — Officials from the Cambodian and Australian governments signed a second memorandum of understanding Thursday, six months after inking a refugee transfer deal.

Cambodia’s Interior Minister Sar Kheng left for Australia Tuesday and is due back in Phnom Penh on Friday.

A statement released by Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s office Thursday said the fresh deal would “further strengthen co-operation on irregular migration, people smuggling and trafficking.”

Australia has a hardline policy with regard to asylum seekers who arrive by boat, insisting they will never be settled in Australia.

Instead, asylum seekers and refugees who arrive by boat are immediately sent to holding camps in Papua New Guinea and the remote South Pacific island of Nauru, where refugee advocacy groups have said conditions are poor and abuses rife.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop approached Cambodia last year with the suggestion that it be the settling ground for refugees on Nauru.

Kheng and Dutton’s predecessor, Scott Morrison, signed that deal in September 2014, with Australia vowing to give $35 million in aid to Cambodia.

Cambodian delegations have made several trips to Nauru since the signing, but refugees there have expressed they have no intention of volunteering to go to Cambodia — which itself has a poor track record with regard to Muslim Uighur and Vietnamese Montagnards seeking its shelter.

According to Dutton’s office, the new bilateral agreement cements an information-sharing framework between the two countries on matters of “transnational criminal issues.”

The minister said the latest move “represents the renewed determination by Australia and Cambodia to work closely to counter the growing security threat posed by transnational crime and illegal migration practices.”

The statement included remarks from Kheng, who said the new deal would enable both countries to combat “growing international criminal activity” and to promote the legal movement of people between countries.

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