There have been protests outside the Australian embassy in Cambodia against a deal in which Phnom Penh has agreed to resettle refugees mainly from Indonesia.
Canberra will pay Cambodia an additional 27 million euros worth of aid over four years as well as resettlement costs.
Human rights and aid groups working in the poor southeast Asian country have called the accord “shameful”, saying Cambodia has a terrible record on protecting refugees.
“Australia is a rich and powerful country, yet they don’t accept these people. Why has the Cambodian prime minister made this deal agreeing to receive them to live in Cambodia in exchange for millions of dollars?” said protester Kong Chantha.
Cambodian opposition MP Son Chhay called on both governments to be more transparent about what he described as a secret deal.
Australia says 200 refugees have been identified for potential resettlement on a voluntary basis – but Cambodia’s government has reportedly said the country only wants to take four or five to begin with.
Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has also said the extra aid which raises the total amount it gives Cambodia by 50 percent,is not linked to the deal to take refugees.
The conservative government came to power in Canberra promising to “stop the boats” carrying migrants.
The minister said the refugee deal would enable it to fulfil its policy whereby no-one will be resettled in Australia.