Australia Rejects Asylum Seekers Resettlement, Throws Them To Cambodia Instead; Activists Criticise Australia's Immigration Policies

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Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
IN PHOTO: Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (R) talks to Reuters reporter during an interview in Phnom Penh November 18, 2014. Sarah is currently on a fact-finding mission in Cambodia, seeking to understand as much as she can about the recently signed refugee deal and the conditions that refugees will be living in when transferred from Nauru to Cambodia. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

The Australian government said on Thursday it is sending refugees to resettle in Cambodia in an effort to stand by its policy that no asylum seekers by boat can find solace in Australia. In a bilateral agreement signed by Cambodia in September last year, Australia will shell out an additional $40 million as aid, on top of $10 million a year as provisions to refugees who are currently being detained at the Pacific Atoll of Nauru.

The office of Peter Dutton, immigration minister, issued a statement that the offer is on voluntary basis, although none from the refugees has ever enlisted. In order to attract volunteers, the fact sheet, which was circulated among the more or less 1,200 refugees, said moving to Cambodia provides an opportunity to start a new life as it is free from violence and persecution. It assured refugees there is law and order in Cambodia and does not have issues such as stray dogs or violent crime.

The fact sheet also cited benefits which vary according to when the volunteer-refugees will concede to Australian government’s offer. Refugees will be given undisclosed amount of cash and a bank account. Other benefits include health insurance for four years, access to education, finding work and language training. Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, they will be accommodated for three months in villas or service apartment.

For a year or longer, depending on how long the refugees may need it, Australia will shoulder the rental fees. After seven years, refugees can apply for citizenship and children born during that time will be given Cambodian citizenship. But if they are not included in the first group to resettle in Cambodia, the next groups will have a different assistance package.

Australia has been heavily criticised for how they treat refugees through its immigration policies such as throwing asylum seekers to camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, only to face detention for a long time upon arrival, Reuters reports. At the present, refugees from Nauru came from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia. There are also some Uighurs.

Majority of the refugees came to Australia by boat through the assistance of people smugglers. But among the refugees, only 200 were assessed to be true refugees eligible for Cambodian resettlement. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, however, none of the asylum seekers detained in Papua New Guinea and Nauru are eligible for Australian resettlement, even if they turn out to be real refugees.

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