By Lauren Crothers
The Australian government has retained a second agency to assist in the resettlement of refugees in Cambodia, despite scant interest from the people it detains on Nauru and for whom the offer stands.
On Tuesday, the Phnom Penh Post reported that the Connect Settlement Agency had been retained and said its staffers had been in the Cambodian capital for the past month.
The resettlement deal was signed by the Cambodian and Australian governments in September 2014.
In February 2015, the International Organization for Migration confirmed it had been awarded the tender to facilitate the resettlement of refugees. The first group arrived four months later and were whisked away to a secluded villa by IOM staff, where they received language and orientation classes.
Even though Australia paid Cambodia a total of A$55 million ($42.1 million) for the deal and its resettlement costs, all of the original four people -- three Iranians and a Rohingya Muslim -- have returned to Iran and Myanmar, respectively.
A fifth Rohingya man who arrived separately from the first group is currently the only refugee related to the deal still in Cambodia.
In an email sent to Anadolu Agency on Tuesday, Laurie Nowell, a spokesman for Connect’s partner organization AMES Australia, did not say when Connect had also come on board.
“Connect is a settlement agency working to support refugees; helping them connect with the local community, helping them find jobs or start businesses and referring them to health services when required,” Nowell said, before referring further questions to Australia’s immigration department.
Nowell had told the Post that Connect was invited to apply for the tender because the previous organization was no longer involved.
Asked if the IOM was still being retained by the Australian government, IOM spokesman Joe Lowry told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that the organization is “still available to work with anyone coming from Nauru, but for the specifics of what the Australian government is contracting -- you have to ask them.”
The office of Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.