Returnee Assistance Project
A support network for returning Cambodians
Orientation – Training – Employment – Housing
17A, Street 178, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
In March 2002, the US and Cambodia signed an agreement whereby more than 1000 Cambodians living in the United States may be deported to Cambodia.
All of these individuals entered the US legally as refugees (most as children) in the early 1980s. Over the years they became involved in various kinds of illegal activity (ranging from rather minor domestic disputes to gang violence to drug offenses to assault and armed robbery). All were convicted and completed prison sentences. All are now ineligible for US citizenship and under present US law must be deported. The same law applies to citizens of other countries (though several governments have not yet agreed to accept the returns).
Most of those being deported have little connection to contemporary Cambodia, their only memories being of cruelty and starvation under the Khmer Rouge. Some do not speak Khmer (and many do not read or write the language). Some were born in refugee camps and have literally never stepped foot in Cambodia.
While it is hoped US law will be modified to permit case-by-case humanitarian review, hundreds of these young men and women will be deported to the land they fled in terror two decades ago.
Deportations began in June 2002 and are expected to continue in regular monthly groups of 10-12 for years to come.
Neither the Cambodian nor the US governments currently have any programs in place to assist the returnees with resettlement nor do they make any funds available for this purpose. The Cambodian Department of Immigration attempts to locate relatives of the returnees to help them with orientation, housing and employment. In a few cases this is appropriate, but in most cases the returnees either have no contact with family in Cambodia or their relatives are unable to provide anything beyond the most basic assistance. – and even that is often in remote areas where jobs based on their English language ability and other specialized skills are not available.
The Returnee Assistance Project (RAP) is a private initiative by a group of concerned organizations and individuals who became involved with the first returnees in seeking ways to help with their reintegration. It quickly became apparent that while the deportations represent an enormous personal tragedy for the individuals and families involved, most of the returnees are highly-motivated young people with education, skills and energy they are eager to devote to building new lives in Cambodia. RAP was established to assist them in those efforts.
RAP, supported by contributions from non-governmental organizations and concerned individuals, provides returning Cambodians with basic support services including:
Information – RAP facilitates contacts between returnees and local and international media as well as with advocacy groups, attorneys, NGOs, families, potential deportees, authorities and other interested persons and institutions.
The RAP staff consists of a coordinator with more than thirty years experience in development work, a social worker with experience in Cambodian-American community work and two project assistants (one of whom is himself a returnee).
The RAP Advisory Group includes social workers, human rights and legal aid specialists, mental health professionals, educators, and representatives of several NGOs.
To inquire about ways in which you can help in this initiative, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Herod, Coordinator
Returnee Assistance Project (RAP)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Yahoo! Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Repatriation/
Web Site: http://cambodiatoday.bravepages.com/Returnees.htm
Photo Albums: http://community.webshots.com/user/billherod