Sydney: Australia and Cambodia on Thursday sealed a second deal on immigration cooperation, vowing to tackle the "growing security threat" of asylum-seeker smuggling just months after agreeing to transfer refugees to the Southeast Asian nation.
The new memorandum of understanding will see the two nations exchange information on people-smuggling activities, building on September`s deal to transfer refugees held by Australia on the remote Pacific island of Nauru to Cambodia.
Under Canberra`s hardline immigration policy, asylum-seekers who arrive on boats are denied resettlement in Australia and sent to Papua New Guinea and Nauru, even if they are genuine refugees.
"The agreement represents the renewed determination by Australia and Cambodia to work closely to counter the growing security threat posed by transnational crime and illegal migration practices," Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement as he welcomed Cambodia`s Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng to Canberra.
Sar Kheng said the agreement reflected Phnom Penh`s commitment to "develop our capacity to fight this growing international criminal activity" of people-smuggling.
The deputy prime minister also defended Cambodia`s reported deportation of 36 Vietnamese Montagnards last month after they were arrested while trying to seek asylum.
The mainly Christian ethnic minorities in Vietnam`s mountainous Central Highlands have crossed the border to Cambodia in recent years to escape discrimination.
"If we are able to identify those individuals who are illegal immigrants then we implement the immigration law, whereas (if we) identify those who are refugees we implement the convention," Kheng said in Canberra, the Australian Associated Press reported.
Australia has attracted criticism, including from the United Nations, for signing the deal to permanently resettle refugees in Cambodia, one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia.
Refugee advocates say asylum-seekers are not interested in the deal.