Australia’s Cambodian resettlement deal worth $55 million is facing a tough challenge with the continuous return of refugees to their native lands.
Five Nauru refugees were transferred to the Southeast Asian country with Australia offering assistance worth a huge amount. However, three of them left Cambodia to return to their homeland, posing a threat to the deal between the two nations. Australia paid $55 million to Cambodia to help the refugees resettle there for the rest of their lives.
Australia, regardless of the number of refugees in Cambodia, still needs to bear the complete cost of the deal that includes $40 million entailed for additional aid and $15.5 million for resettlement assistance.
According to The Guardian, the Iranian refugee couple left Cambodia in February, the other back to Myanmar. The Immigration Department led by Peter Dutton has confirmed on Tuesday that Nauru refugees are still being encouraged to shift to Cambodia for their wellbeing.
Interior Ministry’s immigration department Director Sol Phal told Cambodia Daily that the couple wished to return to Iran and they did so. “They [are] back already,” he said. “They wanted to return back home. You ask me why, I don’t know.” The department also confirmed that the refugees who were transferred to Cambodia were genuine refugees and have a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their native lands.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Richard Marles, immigration spokesman in the Labor Party, said that the deal reflected the failure of Australian government in handling the asylum seekers properly. “Not only has this government wasted $55 million of taxpayers money on this dud deal, they have also left more than 2,000 people on Manus and Nauru in limbo for nearly three years on their watch,” he said.
“The inability of this government to secure a meaningful resettlement arrangement with a credible third country is a serious failure on the part of [Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull.”