ChildFund Australia is calling on the Australian Government to abandon its plan to transfer asylum seekers to Cambodia under a new resettlement agreement, which Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is expected to sign today.
The Government plans to resettle the 1,000 asylum seekers currently based on Nauru to Cambodia. This act is at odds with Australia’s international obligations under the Refugee Convention, which states that resettlement should only be considered where local integration is not possible.
ChildFund and other international development organisations have advised the government of the unsuitability of Cambodia, as a country to provide long-term settlement options for displaced families.
Currently, Cambodia is ranked at 136 out of 187 countries in terms of its human development. Poverty is widespread, with the country still emerging from the impact of the Khmer Rouge genocide, a period of civil conflict which only ended in 1978.
ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence, says: “ChildFund Australia has been implementing community development programs in Cambodia since 2007. It is a country where rates of child malnutrition are extremely high, basic services and infrastructure such as water and sanitation are lacking, and human rights issues are of significant concern.
“It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect Cambodia to provide the required services and assistance for asylum seekers”
The Government announcement comes at a time when more than 50 million people globally are displaced, the first time the post-World War II maximum has been exceeded.
Spence added: “In 2013, Australia resettled around 34,000 asylum seekers within our borders. Research has shown that once they have the opportunity to establish themselves, these individuals and families make important economic and social contributions to our society.
“Currently, developing countries are providing asylum to 86 per cent of the world’s refugees. Given our strong economy, and the quality of infrastructure, it is vital that Australia does its fair share during a period of such global turmoil. Deferring our responsibilities to a developing country like Cambodia will put the lives of these already vulnerable people at further risk. It is also in contradiction to international laws that Australia has agreed to uphold.”