PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - The fourth of a handful of asylum-seekers sent to Cambodia under a controversial $29-million resettlement deal with Australia has recently departed the Southeast Asian country, a migration official said on Friday, leaving a sole final participant.
The man who left was an Iranian who arrived last June from a detention center on the remote South Pacific island nation of Nauru along with two compatriots and a Rohingya, from Myanmar’s Muslim minority, many of whom are stateless.
“He has left, but we have nothing to say on where, or why,” said Joe Lowry, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which facilitates the resettlement scheme.
Lowry declined to say where the man had gone, but the two other Iranians and the Rohingya have reportedly returned to their home countries.
Australian and Cambodian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The last refugee left under the 2014 scheme, which Cambodia agreed in exchange for aid worth A$40 million ($28.56 million), is also Rohingya.
Cambodia had threatened to pull out of the scheme, but this week said it would send a team to Nauru next month to interview two more Iranian refugees seeking resettlement in the country, reviving the deal that had seemed on the verge of collapse.
Australia has vowed to stop asylum seekers sailing from Indonesia and Sri Lanka and landing on its shores, instead intercepting boats at sea and detaining their passengers in camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Rights groups have condemned Australia for trying to resettle refugees in poorer countries such as Cambodia, which is frequently accused of human rights abuses and has an economy less than one percent the size of Australia’s.
Lowry referred further questions on the scheme to Cambodian government officials, adding, “All I can tell you is that IOM is still involved in providing resettlement services.”
Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Andrew RC Marshall and Clarence Fernandez