Nauru refugees reach Phnom Penh

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Cambodia Daily reports the arrival and settling-in of the first refugees from Nauru (three Iranians and a Rohingya). Photo shows the villa they get put in. Not too seedy, but not for forever, either.

The Daily’s article says the villa is “adorned with large red arrows” – eh?

The villa is down on the southern outskirts of the city, a bit over 3km from the Royal Palace (i.e., city centre). Not far really. No idea what plans there are for the post-settling-in phase.

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“I feel a bit scared about the refugees staying here, because I don’t know about their character or attitudes,” said An Sophat, 62, who has a roadside stall about 20 meters from their home.

Ms. Sophat said that she had not received any warning about their arrival, and was taken aback when they showed up in her neighborhood.

“Yesterday, I saw a lot of cars coming here and I was surprised, I wondered what was happening,” she said. “I saw the cars of the IOM, they drove the foreigners into that building.”

Like Ms. Sophat, another resident of the area, Hun Dany, 23, said that she was apprehensive about the new arrivals.

“If I met them outside my home, I could talk with them, but I could not invite them into my home because I don’t know them properly, so I don’t know whether to believe they are good or not,” she said.

But Hang Raksmey Phalla, 31, who lives next to the compound, said she was unconcerned about the presence of the refugees in the area.

“I feel fine about this, because Cambodians also go to live in other countries,” she said.

Asked if she would welcome the group into the community, Ms. Phalla, who works at the Ministry of Water Resources, said “I will observe them first.”

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2 thoughts on “Nauru refugees reach Phnom Penh

  1. As an Australian vehemently opposed to our government’s asylum seeker policies, I feel deeply ambivalent about the resettlement of refugees from Nauru to Cambodia. On the one hand, they will be much better off in Cambodia than they are in immigration detention on Nauru — especially if they meet more people like Ms Phalla. On the other hand, I believe we should be doing more to resettle refugees within Australia. There’s a great story about the economic, social and cultural benefits Karen refugees have brought to one rural community here, which serves as examples of what is possible.

    • Angela, I agree totally that they’ll be better off in Cambodia than Nauru – probably. I hope. Nauru is a hell-hole, and if Cambodia turns out worse…. At the moment the velvet gloves are on, everything is roses and violins, because these four are expected to entice more to come. But there are ethnic tensions in Cambodia, notably between Khmers and Vietnamese, and though most Cambodians are warm and welcoming to strangers, it’s not to be taken for granted. We must watch and see.

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