Concerns Cambodia could become dumping ground of Nauru refugees
The Australian Refugee Council is concerned Cambodia may become a dumping ground for those granted refugee status in Nauru, but have nowhere else to go.
The Australian Refugee Council is concerned Cambodia may become a dumping ground for those granted refugee status in Nauru, but have no where else to go.
Last week the first thirteen asylum seekers were granted refugee visas in Nauru, and 11 on Manus in Papua New Guinea.
The Nauru visas are valid for five years.
The refugee council's chief executive, Paul Power, is concerned about what will happen to them then, and told Christopher Gilbert the main option that seems to be resettlement in Cambodia.
PAUL POWER: The best guide that we have at the moment as to what life will be like for refugees resettled from Nauru to Cambodia is to look at what is happening to the 70 or UN recognised refugees who are living in Cambodia at the moment. While Cambodia has signed the Refugee Convention in recent years they've actually forcibly returned recognised refugees to their country of origin. We certainly hope that won't happen in the case of people who are resettled there. But of those 70 or so refugees who remain within Cambodia, they have a piece of paper that they're recognised as refugees but it hasn't translated into any residency permits. They don't actually have the right to seek employment, and they're living in appalling housing conditions. Cambodia is one of the poorest nations in Asia and if you're looking at what countries are best placed to resettle they are middle and higher income countries that have job opportunities within their economy. I don't think anyone would argue that Cambodia is anything other than close to the bottom of the list of countries able to do that.
CHRISTOPHER GILBERT: If we turn back to Nauru for a moment, the governance and economy there are not the strongest to take even 13 new people, and more that might come in the future. Is adequate support coming from Australia in your opinion?
PP: Oh, we really don't know exactly what support is going to come to be honest. I suppose if there's one country in the world where the resettlement of refugees is even less sustainable than Cambodia it would probably be Nauru. I mean, Nauru is a nation of 10,000 people and it has very widespread unemployment. The majority of the people who are working age in Nauru are unemployed. Anything that occurs is going to have to be heavily subsidised. All of what we're seeing is not happening out of necessity, it's actually happening because of domestic politics in Australia. So, the question is how long will our politicians focus on the needs of the people that they've forcibly removed to these countries in the pacific? Ultimately, there are many reasons to be concerned about the long term future for these people who are found to be in need of refugee protection.
CG: But is it as simple as having to wait for the Australian Government, or Australian politicians to change their tune? Because they're being told by the Australian Government 'you can go anywhere that will take you but you can't come here'. So it's either an option of trying to find the means to go to another part of the world or trying to make do, at least for five years, in Nauru. Is there any other solution here?
PP: No, and I think this is part of the problem. I mean the phenomenon that we're seeing of refugees attempting to enter Australia, to seek protection in Australia, is really part of a much larger Asia-Pacific issue, and a much larger international issue, where governments do all that they can to try and avoid coming face-to-face with people who need refugee protection. So, it's really unfortunate and we have these people who have been found to be in need of protection from persecution who are being made an example of to scare away other people who may think about going to Australia to seek protection from persecution themselves.
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