Cambodia? No thanks say refugees on Nauru


Australia’s Memorandum of Understanding with Cambodia to take refugees from the Pacific island of Nauru is coming under more and flak in the worldwide media.

Already described as a new low in Australia’s deplorable treatment of asylum seekers by Amnesty International it seem that in any case none of the refugees incarcerated in the appalling detention centre in Nauru will go to Cambodia anyway.

Australia has announced that only volunteers will go to Cambodia and has promised the Hun Sen government some AS40 million in benefits. Nobody seems to have asked the asylum seekers beforehand and the Guardian reports that that none can be found.

No surprises there. Not sure what happened to Australia’s Forward Planning Office on this one.

What the Guardian says

Kathy Marks in the ‘Independent’

Lindsay Murdoch, Age and Sydney Morning Herald

NewYork Times

Below from Amnesty International:

Cambodia: New deal with Australia signs away refugee rights

A new low in Australia’s deplorable and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers has been reached with a deal to apparently ship refugees to Cambodia, where respect for their human rights cannot be guaranteed, said Amnesty International.

An agreement between the Australian and Cambodian governments to relocate refugees to the South-East Asian state is to be signed tomorrow, 26 September, in Phnom Penh by Cambodia’s Minister of Interior and Australia’s Minister of Immigration and Border Protection. 

“This agreement is putting the short-term political interests of the Australian government ahead of the protection of some of the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees,” said Rupert Abbott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

“It makes Cambodia complicit in Australia’s human rights breaches and seriously flawed offshore processing system.” 

The lack of transparency over the terms of the agreement has been a major cause of concern in both countries. There has been no opportunity for civil society to contribute to discussions or to formally raise objections on the basis of international human rights standards.

Amnesty International and other international rights groups have questioned Cambodia’s suitability as a host country for refugees relocated by Australia.

The human rights situation in the country is troubling. There has been a marked deterioration of respect for freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including a violent crackdown by security forces on striking workers and activists in January, while forced evictions, land disputes and land grabbing affect thousands of people. 

“In January the Australian Government condemned Cambodia’s human rights record at a UN human rights hearing, but will now relocate vulnerable refugees, possibly including children, to the country,” said Rupert Abbott.

Providing appropriate services to ensure successful settlement of refugees requires considerable expertise and a coordinated approach for the various services required, especially for children. 
Amnesty International cannot envisage how this will be possible given the lack of required services in Cambodia.


Many of the refugees who will apparently be relocated as part of the agreement between Cambodia and Australia have already been held unlawfully in harsh, humiliating conditions in Australia’s offshore detention centres.

Amnesty International has documented how asylum seekers offshore have been subjected to a host of human rights violations and abuses, including violent assault, as they wait in legal limbo. 
Ultimately, the international refugee protection system obliges Australia to allow these individuals to obtain international protection in Australia.

3 thoughts on “Cambodia? No thanks say refugees on Nauru

  1. The EU should now suspend the quota trade agreements with the Australians forthwith and block all imports of their wine and meat. Australia has plainly become a country outside the Pale of 1951 Convention countries. Frankly, it has become a ghastly ersatz American country without any coherent identity apart from a mindless devotion to sport, alcoholism and cheap holidays so beloved of their forbears, the lower end of British society.

  2. I meet a lot of Australians in Bali, where I spend my free time. Gerry, you do not do them justice!!!

    These refugees are perceived in Australia as looking for a free handout from the Aussie tax payer. This is quite misconceived, these people have spent months and a lot of money on a perilous journey to get to Australia, a country most of them hope will take them in and let them build a productive life, which includes hard work.

    And is that not what the second wave of settlers of Australia did?

    Stranding them in a remote Pacfic country in a camp will keep them relatively safe, and that in itself is to be applauded, but does not deal with the long term settlement issues. It is a limbo that can only lead to despair for these people. Resettling in a third country, as long as they have full economic rights and protection, is a better outcome than the camps.

    And that is where Canberra are falling down, they seem ready to send them anywhere that will ask a small amount of money in return and are not being too picky.

  3. Completely agree, Jules. Refugee placement is a world wide problem that all countries should discuss together and agree quotas. But even within the EU that doesn't happen. There the rule is that a refugee stays in the first EU country he reaches. But France puts them in camps where? Right next to the railway sidings in Calais where they can go to England. If the EU can't cooperate what hope the whole world. Apologies if you are French but all countries must work together, it can't fall on a few countries only.

    The idea of suspending imports from Australia is totally wrong and won't happen. It would attract retaliation measures anyway.

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