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Refugee leaves Cambodia after being deeply unhappy with move from Nauru

Sydney Morning Herald - May 28, 2016

Lindsay Murdoch An Iranian refugee sent to Cambodia by Australia under a controversial $55 million agreement has quit the country after telling relatives he was deeply unhappy about making the move from Nauru.

Officials in Phnom Penh have confirmed that Daniel Eskandari, in his early 20s, secretly left Cambodia for Iran several weeks ago. Now only one of five refugees who volunteered to take a one-way ticket from Nauru remains in Cambodia, one of Asia's poorest nations.

Rohingya Muslim Mohammed Rashid, 26, told Fairfax Media in March he felt abandoned and feared he would die in Cambodia. Mr Eskandari was among the first group from Nauru to arrive in Phnom Penh in June last year.

He complained about broken Australian promises while living in Phnom Penh under the care of the International Organisation for Migration, which Australia allocated millions of dollar take care of the refugees.

Mr Eskandari was found to have a well-founded fear of persecution if he returned to Iran when he applied for refugee status before leaving Nauru.

The deal with Cambodia that then Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison signed with Cambodia at a champagne-sipping ceremony in 2014 has teetered on collapse for months. But two Iranian refugees on Nauru a man and a woman have reportedly offered to give up hope of living in Australia and travel to Cambodia.

Cambodian officials plan to travel to Nauru to interview them to assess their suitability for living in their country.

Kem Sarin, a senior Cambodian official, told the Phnom Penh Post that the Iranian refugee Mr Eskandari volunteered to return to Iran where Fairfax Media understands he has relatives who were sending him money in Phnom Penh.

"If they (the refugees) want to stay here, we welcome that," Mr Kem Sarin said. "If they want to go home to reunite with their relatives and enjoy their family, we more than welcome that."

The agreement has been widely condemned, including by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, human rights and refugee advocates and Cambodia's opposition parties.

As well giving Cambodia, a country where corruption is endemic, $40 million to sign the agreement, Australia also allocated $15 million to the IOM in Cambodia to look after the refugees.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/refugee-leaves-cambodia-after-being-deeply-unhappy-with-move-from-nauru-20160528-gp6170.html.

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