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ICC Note: Montagnards, a mostly Christian ethnic minority that fled from Vietnam fear for being forcibly deported by Cambodian government. Under the pretense that they are not refugees, Cambodia might return those people to Vietnam which constitutes a grave error in judgment as most of them will face extreme consequences. UNCHR is trying to exercise its mandate and remove the people safely out of Cambodia to safe third countries, despite government’s resistance.

09/1/2017 Cambodia (Phnom Penh Post) – The vast majority of the Montagnard asylum seekers remaining in Cambodia will be forcibly deported to Vietnam, thwarting the UN refugee body’s efforts to relocate 36 people with serious claims to a third country, according to an email leaked to the media yesterday.

The email, from a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staffer, says that Ministry of Interior Secretary of State Ouk Kimlek penned a letter saying the government would not allow the UNHCR to bring all 36 Montagnards – all with strong asylum claims – to a third country.

There were seven exceptions – three already recognised as refugees, and an additional four who were granted refugee status on appeal. However, 29 people are “slated to be forcefully returned to Viet Nam”, the email read.

In the email, the staffer, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, says that the UNHCR will look to bring those seven to an unspecified safe third country as soon as possible, but points out that the rejected Montagnards – a mostly Christian ethnic minority from Vietnam’s central highlands – “have good grounds for fearing persecution but have been rejected at first instance and on appeal despite the documented risks on return to Viet Nam”.

“By rejecting their claims, Cambodia can return these people . . . under the pretence that they are not refugees which constitutes a grave error in judgment in each of the cases,” the email read.

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