Immigration

Australian refugee deal a failure: Cambodian official

File image of Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton Source: AAP

A top Cambodian government official has dubbed the refugee resettlement program with Australia a failure.

It's been dubbed a failure by a top official in Phnom Penh, but Immigration Minister Peter Dutton insists Australia's refugee resettlement deal with Cambodia isn't a $55 million white elephant.

Of the five refugees who agreed to move from Nauru under the deal, only two remain in Cambodia after three opted to return to their countries of origin.

Australia offered Cambodia a $40 million aid sweetener and $15 million was earmarked for the International Organisation for Migration for resettlement costs.

Not all of that money has been spent.

"Nobody has been paid $55 million," Mr Dutton told ABC radio on Monday.

"We pay as people go across to Cambodia."

Mr Dutton declined to provide an exact figure but said it was in the low millions of dollars.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan admits the country doesn't have the social services needed to support the integration of refugees into Khmer society.

"You could say it is a failure, but at least we relieved them from the camp," the spokesman told Al Jazeera's 101 East program.

He also told the program on Friday there had been a plan to build a refugee centre in Cambodia "controlled by the Australian embassy".

Meanwhile, Mr Dutton dismissed reports Papua New Guinea is moving to close the detention centre on Manus Island by the end of June.

"There is a lot of misinformation being peddled," he said.

The main problem was that refugees were refusing to leave the centre and move to the transit centre at East Lorengau, the minister said he had been told.

Mr Dutton rejected claims the government reclassified parts of a Sydney facility to support its claim no children remain in immigration detention.

Mr Dutton announced over the weekend all children had been released from mainland detention centres but refugee advocates argue 10 remain at the Villawood centre in western Sydney after their status was changed to "community detention".

The minister said there was a family living in a townhouse adjacent to the centre who could come and go during the day, and visit a male relative still in "held detention".

"We've been able to make a modification to the arrangement so the children aren't detained, they can have friends over, they can go out into the community," he said.

They weren't being accompanied by guards when they went to school, the minister said.

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