Asylum seekers bound for Australia will be sent to one of Asia’s poorest nations after an “in principal” agreement between Australia and Cambodia, an official says.
Cambodian foreign ministry official Ouch Borith has confirmed that while no firm deal had been reached, the kingdom was open to taking in asylum seekers intercepted en route to Australia.
“In general, the government has agreed in principal,” Mr Borith told reporters on Tuesday.
However, he said Cambodian authorities were still studying the proposal made by the Australian government.
“Agreeing in principal means that we are considering it and we will do it in accordance with international standards,” he said.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made an unannounced visit to Cambodia earlier this month, raising speculation that Phnom Penh would join Papua New Guinea and Nauru in helping resettle asylum-seekers
The government has adopted a hardline policy against asylum seekers arriving on boats, as it seeks to control its maritime borders and prevent would-be refugees from drowning at sea, according to ninemsn.
Under the policy, boat-people have been sent to camps on remote Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island in the Pacific for processing and denied resettlement in Australia.
The centres are closed to media and non-government human rights agencies.
Visiting UN rights envoy Flavia Pansieri declined to comment on the tentative agreement after talks with Ouch Borith because the details were still unclear, but she offered a general pledge of assistance if needed.
“What we think is important is to note that Cambodia is well aware of its international commitment to human rights standards,” Ms Pansieri said.
“To the extent there is any need for co-operation, we stand ready to provide support to ensure that standards are met,” she added.
The announcement comes as the 1177 asylum seekers, including women and children, in Nauru were told they would be given a temporary five-year visa on the island.
Asylum seekers would also be given work rights for the same amount of time, but would not be permanently resettled there, according to Fairfax.
International advocate groups have regularly accused Cambodia for ignoring human rights and suppressing political dissent.