Ridiculous refugee relocation: Ruth’s response

Scott Morrison and Sar Kheng. Two names that meant very little to much of the world until this week. Now these two government officials from Australia and Cambodia respectively, are responsible for signing one of the most controversial international memorandums in recent years. A document signed in Phnom Penh on Friday saw a deal struck which could see the resettlement of an unlimited number of asylum seekers from Australian detention centres to Cambodia. Despite a media statement declaring that Cambodia and Australia would work with the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) throughout the deal process, the UNHCR along with countless human right advocacy groups have condemned the resettlement deal. Amnesty International, the International Detention Coalition and Children’s Rights International, Plan International Australia, the Refugee Council of Australia, Save the Children, Unicef Australia, and World Vision are all human rights organisations which have spoken out in protest of the memorandum. Former chief justice Alastair Nicholson states that this deal is in fact contrary to multiple international laws. Indeed this deal effectively amounts to the Australian government selling off vulnerable people to a corrupt government, ill-equipped to accommodate those which it has endeavoured to protect. Cambodia has not only a poor human rights record amongst its own people but also a deleterious history with refugees. In 2009 they sent 20 Uighurs back to China who subsequently faced secret trials and reportedly long jail sentences, and between 2001 and 2004 hundreds of Montagnards were deported. Cambodia currently hosts 70 officially recognised refugees in a country of 15 million citizens. Whilst the deal is uncapped and Australian off-shore detention centres currently host 3,300 asylum seekers, a spokesman for the Cambodian government has declared that Cambodia will take only the minimum number of refugees the country can accommodate, after visiting detention centres to “explain to them about Cambodia”. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall in that meeting! This deal, inevitably, involves money: 40 million AUS$ has been pledged for development projects, in addition to Australia covering the cost of the resettlement of the asylum seekers. The 40 million in aid over the next four years however is a pittance in comparison to the 79 million AUS$ pledged in aid for 2014-2015 alone. And this additional money will probably end up in the pockets of a few, powerful individuals, despite Morrison claiming that there will be checks to ensure the aid is being spent correctly. The existence of these checks merely highlights the awareness of the Australian government of Cambodia’s extremely high levels of corruption and the untrustworthy nature of the Cambodia government. So once the refugees get to Cambodia, what are they expected to do? It would be naive to believe that the Cambodian government is prepared to play an significant, proactive part in assisting the establishment of a new life for these people. Jobs are hard enough to come by for Cambodians, let alone refugees who do not speak the language and are unfamiliar with the culture. I predict that any refugees who do relocate will join Cambodia’s 85% living on less than 3 US$ per day, struggling to survive, and wondering why their government is so reluctant to implement positive change. If you’re an optimist however, there is a sliver of a silver lining. The deal requires those currently detained to voluntarily agree to be relocated to Cambodia. The Pacific island of Nauru is home to an off-shore detention centre which currently holds 1,233 asylum seekers, including 222 children, who staged protests this week declaring they will all refuse this offer. So maybe these arguments are all arbitrary. Yes this is a ridiculous, illegal, unfair, and thoughtless memorandum, but unless people agree to the relocation, it is merely a piece of paper highlighting the irresponsibility of the Australian government and the greed of the Cambodian leadership. For more information on this subject, and where I got much of my information from, see articles by The Guardian, The New York Times, The Phnom Penh Post, and The BBC

Categories: Australia, Cambodia, Corruption, Refugee, Social | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: