A Change of Guard

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Friday, 27 May 2016

Another Nauru refugee leaves Cambodia for Iran

Refugees from Nauru arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport last year.
Refugees from Nauru arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport last year. Pha Lina

Fri, 27 May 2016 ppp
Erin Handley

Cambodian officials have confirmed an Iranian refugee, transferred to the Kingdom under a controversial A$55 million deal, has returned to Iran.

Kem Sarin, director of the administration department at the Interior Ministry's General Department of Immigration, said the Iranian refugee had left Cambodia in April.

"He volunteered to go back home," Sarin said.

"To go back to their home country is their right ... It doesn't impact the deal.

"If they want to stay here, we welcome that. If they want to go home to reunite with their relatives and enjoy their family, we more than welcome that."

The latest departure leaves just one refugee from the island of Nauru – Rohingya Mohammed Rashid – in Cambodia.

Rashid has expressed regret over his decision to relocate to Cambodia, where he has suffered medical issues.

The Iranian was the last remaining of the original four refugees to volunteer to resettle in Cambodia under the scheme, which aims to deter asylum seekers from boarding boats to reach Australia.

The news comes after two other Iranian refugees returned home on February 12, after touching down in the Kingdom in June of last year.

Another of the June arrivals, reportedly a Rohingya from Myanmar, also returned to his home country in October.

While Cambodian officials were originally planning to visit Nauru to interview two prospective Iranian refugees this month, refugee department director Tan Sovichea said they were still waiting on the Australian government to confirm a date.

He suspected the postponement of the visit was due to the ongoing Australian election campaign.

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition has repeatedly told the Post the Cambodia deal has not been viewed as a permanent solution for refugees based on Nauru, but an opportunity to leave the island and relocate to a third country.

So far, about A$8 million of the allocated A$55 million has been spent, according to a senate estimates hearing.

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