UN refugee agency expresses concern over destination Cambodia | Asia Pacific

UN refugee agency expresses concern over destination Cambodia

UN refugee agency expresses concern over destination Cambodia

Updated 30 April 2014, 12:17 AEST

The United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri who's visiting Cambodia, says the UN will provide support in any arrangement to help Phnom Penh meet human rights standards.

But the UN's refugee agency - UNHCR - has told the ABC it has concerns about living conditions in Cambodia for anyone resettled there.

Sajithra Nithi has spoken to Vivian Tan from the UNHCR's regional office in Bangkok.

Interviewer: Sajithra Nithi

Speakers: Vivian Tan, regional UNHCR office, Bangkok

TAN: We are not part of bilateral discussions, so I have absolutely no details on what exactly has been discussed or agreed on. And I think it would be premature to comment on any arrangements until we find out what exactly they are.
NITHI: And would have some sort of human rights criteria that Cambodia would have to meet?
TAN: Usually, for a country to become a resettlement country or to set up a resettlement program, it does need to have quite a lot of criteria in place. For example, it should have legislative and policy instruments to ensure the status and rights of resettled refugees. It should have integration programs, to deliver the support and provide access to essential services. And there are many essential services that are needed for resettled refugees.
NITHI: And do you think Cambodia could meet this criteria?
TAN: At this point, we haven't assessed Cambodia as a resettlement country. I think it's important to note that the government took over the processing of asylum claims in late 2009. The whole asylum system is at a rather nascent state, so any increase in refugee or asylum seeker case loads are likely to have impact on its work. It currently hosts a small number of refugees, so it's already a refugee hosting country. But I think it's important to note that in terms of general living conditions and standards, refugees live under the same conditions and standards as do Cambodians which can be difficult. For example, looking at the human development index last year, Cambodia was ranked 138 out of 187 countries  or territories. So it's still very much a country that's trying to come out of a long history of civil conflict and trying to recover from that.
NITHI: So at this stage do you think human rights would be a concern at all?
TAN: Well, UNCHR has been working with the Cambodian authorities to make sure that asylum seekers and refugees in the country have access to asylum when they need to and so they can survive in the country. It's an ongoing process of building capacity and working with the authorities.

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