Australia insists refugee deal on track despite Cambodian denial

2015-08-31 16:57
Sydney Harbour, Bridge, and Opera House.

Sydney Harbour, Bridge, and Opera House. (Shutterstock)

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Sydney - Australia insisted a multimillion-dollar deal with Cambodia to take its refugees was on track on Monday, despite reports that the Phnom Penh regime was backing out.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop denied the deal was in danger of collapsing, after a Cambodian Interior Ministry official reportedly said his government had no plans to accept more refugees sent by Australia.

"We don't have any plans to import more refugees from Nauru to Cambodia," said Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak was quoted as saying by the Cambodian Daily Monday. "I think the fewer we receive the better."

Only four refugees have so far been transferred from the Australian-run detention camp on the island nation of Nauru to Cambodia, as part of an aid package worth $40m, in exchange for accepting refugees.

The deal signed 12 months ago did not specify how many refugees Cambodia would have to accept in order to qualify for the money.

An Iranian couple, one Iranian man and a Rohingya man from Myanmar held in a Nauru camp agreed in June to transfer to Cambodia, after they were refused entry to Australia.

The four are reportedly living in an Australian-funded villa in Phnom Penh, where they are receiving training and education. They have not been seen in public.

Bishop dismissed reports that relied on a statement by one official. She said that she had a positive meeting with the Cambodian foreign minister in early August, and insisted that Phnom Penh was keen to harness the skills of foreign workers.

The opposition Labor Party's immigration spokesperson Richard Marles called the deal with Cambodia "an expensive joke".

Read more on:    australia  |  cambodia  |  migrants

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