26 Sep 2014
The UN refugee agency UNHCR has expressed reservations over an agreement between Australia and Cambodia on the relocation of refugees and asylum seekers.
Under the agreement signed on Friday Australia will transfer recognized refugees from Nauru to Cambodia.
Australia transfers refugees and asylum seekers trying to reach the country to a detention and processing center located on the Nauru islands in the South pacific.
UNHCR says the agreement sets a worrying precedent adding that refugees fleeing persecution or life-threatening effects of armed conflict are entitled to better treatment rather than being shipped from one country to the next.
Adrian Edwards is the UNHCR spokesperson in Geneva.
“Under the agreement, people who are recognized as refugees in Nauru will be offered permanent settlement in Cambodia and are barred from settlement in Australia. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has warned that this is a worrying departure from international norms. UNHCR has consistently advocated for asylum-seekers to have their claims assessed and to benefit from protection in the territory of the State where they arrive, or which has jurisdiction over them. We are seeing record forced displacement globally, with 87 per cent of refugees now being hosted in developing countries. While UNHCR recognizes the challenges of people moving by sea in the region, it believes that solutions lie in broad-based regional cooperation, in which all States play their part.”
UNHCR says the Nauru and Manus islands are hosting over 2,200 refugees while Cambodia currently hosts 70 refugees and 20 asylum-seekers.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.