0914 GMT July 17, 2019
Four refugees, including three men and a woman, entered Cambodia on Thursday after they were deported from Australia.
“They’re here, they’re healthy and we ask for privacy for them,” said International Organization for Migration (IOM) regional spokesman Joe Lowry.
The IOM was tasked by Australia and Cambodia to oversee the program, on which they agreed in September.
The deal sparked criticism from the international community.
Under the agreement between Cambodia and Australia, asylum seekers would be sent to Cambodia upon arrival in Australia as part of plans to cut the inflow of migrants to the country. Australia would reportedly pay Cambodia $35 million over the course of four years, and would additionally pay for the costs of the resettlement process involving the asylum seekers.
The government in Canberra has set out to deport asylum seekers to Cambodia despite the fact that the latter country is one of Southeast Asia’s most impoverished states and has a poor human rights record human.
Australia has hard-line immigration policies, almost immediately turning down asylum seekers. Australia uses detention facilities in Papua New Guinea and the tiny islands of Nauru and Manus to hold up the refugees who attempt to reach the country illegally.
‘Human guinea pigs’
The United Nations (UN) has condemned the deal between Australia and Cambodia.
Cambodia has been criticized for its own record of deporting refugees, including those from Vietnam.
“Cambodia clearly has no will or capacity to integrate refugees permanently into Cambodian society,” Phil Robertson, the deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said.
“These four refugees are essentially human guinea pigs in an Australian experiment that ignores the fact that Cambodia has not integrated other refugees and has already sent Montagnards and Uighur asylum seekers back into harm’s way in Vietnam and China,” Robertson added.
Amnesty International in Australia has also condemned the move, saying that Cambodia’s track record of protecting asylum seekers was “poor” and demanded that Canberra “cease the transfer of asylum seekers and refugees to third countries where they are not adequately protected from human rights abuses.”
The Australian government has not yet commented on the transfer of the four refugees to Cambodia.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had previously defended his country’s controversial migration policies and called on the European Union member states to adopt similar measures with regard to asylum seekers.