Abdullah Zalghana opened this restaurant in Phnom Penh 11 months ago. (ABC News: Jerry Rickard)
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen says his country is “preparing” to receive more refugees from Australia in a controversial deal that has already been labelled a failure and cost the Federal Government almost $50 million.
Speaking exclusively to Four Corners, Hun Sen said he told Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that Cambodia is ready to “accept more” refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton did not respond to Four Corners’ questions regarding Hun Sen’s comments, or whether the deal — which is due to expire in the coming months — will be extended or renewed.
In 2014, Australia signed the four-year deal with Cambodia, committing an extra $40 million in aid in exchange for resettling refugees from the offshore detention centre in Nauru.
Another $15 million for “resettlement” services was also pledged, of which $7.88 million has been spent.
That deal is seen as an expensive failure with just three of seven resettled refugees from Nauru remaining in Cambodia.
One of those who remain is 39-year-old Syrian Abdallah Zalghana.
Mr Zalghana claims Australian immigration officials promised him he could bring his family to Cambodia if he took up the offer to resettle there.
“That was the only reason I came here to Cambodia, to meet with my wife and children,” he told Four Corners.
“They promised me, it was an official promise, that within three to four months my wife and children would be with me in Cambodia. But it’s been a year and a half and nothing has happened.
“What they promised me turned out to be all lies.”
Once Mr Zalghana arrived in Cambodia, he claims Australian officials changed their story, telling him he had to first prove he could make a living before his family would be allowed to come.
He says he received $US10,000 to start a business and he opened a small restaurant in Phnom Penh 11 months ago.
But Mr Zalghana’s wife and three children have still not been allowed to join him.
It has now been five years since he has seen them.
“I did everything they wanted,” he said.
“The Australian Government promised me that they will bring my family, but they did not fulfil their promise.”
Mr Zalghana says his new business is going broke because his family is not here to help him run the restaurant and he has had to hire local staff.
Mr Zalghana says he has told officials from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that he is planning on going on a hunger strike to try and draw attention to his case.
“I told them two or three weeks ago that if nothing realistic happens in order to bring my family here I will go on hunger strike by not eating,” Mr Zalghana said.
“Why they cannot understand that I must reunite with my wife and children. What is this about the Australian Government? They have no compassion.”
A spokesperson from Mr Dutton’s office said they would not comment on individual cases.
Watch Sophie McNeill’s investigation, Champagne With Dictators, tonight on Four Corners at 8.30pm on ABC TV and iview.