The Nauru Anaoe Village houses hundreds of asylum seekers, who will be relocated to Cambodia following the new agreement
Nauru Anaoe Village houses hundreds of asylum seekers, who will be relocated to Cambodia following new agreementReuters

Hundreds of refugees living on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, who were initially bound for resettlement in Australia, could be relocated to Cambodia.

In a deal reached by the governments of Cambodia, Nauru and Australia on 23 February, refugees will now be able to work and live anywhere they choose in Cambodia after the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) agreed to resettle refugees in return for new, less strict conditions.

Australia and Cambodia had first signed a Memorandum of Understanding in September 2014, which stated refugees would be voluntarily transferred from Nauru to Cambodia, but would only be able to reside in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh for a year and would then have to go to the countryside.

However, the new agreement, worth $40m (£26m), states all refugees on Nauru will be able to live or work anywhere they desire in Cambodia.

They will also be offered access to health care, educational and employment opportunities and sufficient time to prepare to move to Cambodia, with the Australian government paying for the IOM's assistance in resettling the refugees.

This comes after advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) raised the alarm in November 2014 on the hardships of asylum seekers and refugees living in Cambodia as a result of the Cambodian government's failure to process regular nationality documents and due to poor economic conditions in the country.

According to HRW, refugees faced difficulties in obtaining employment, denial of access to education, substandard access to health services, extortion and corruption by local authorities, and discrimination by officials and the public.

Meanwhile, the IOM said on 23 February that it will also support refugees already living in Cambodia, who have sought asylum from neighbouring countries.

Nauru: Australia's detention centre

More than 510 refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran have been living in the Nauruan community since their refugee status was confirmed by the Nauruan government in mid-2014.

A further 895 asylum seekers, including 116 children, are being held on Australia's offshore island detention centres of Nauru, awaiting refugee status determination.

According to the Sydney-based Refugee Action Coalition, however, there are no refugees on Nauru interested in going to Cambodia.

Australia uses offshore detention centres in Papua New Guinea and the tiny South Pacific Island nation of Nauru to process would-be refugees who arrive on boats.

It has been reported that refugees on Nauru have faced threats by locals, and have been told to stop stealing jobs and to leave the island or face "bad things happening".