What is RISC?
The Returnee Integration Support Center exists to support deported Cambodian-Americans; to ease their transition to a new life in Cambodia.
RISC is a Cambodian non-profit, non-governmental, humanitarian organization.
RISC envisions a world where all returnees who seek our support, are enabled to become independent and productive members of Cambodian society.
What does RISC do?
RISC provides integration services to deported Cambodian-Americans. These services include:
RISC meets every returnee at the Cambodian Immigration detention center, to assess needs and inform individuals of RISC’s services.
RISC assists returnees acquire essential documents, such as a family books, birth certificates, and national ID cards.
• Temporary Housing
RISC offers temporary housing to returnees, according to needs.
• Long-Term Housing
For individuals with special needs, RISC offers long-term housing.
• Employment Assistance
RISC assists returnees in making contacts with potential employers, developing resumes, and offers employment training grants to eligible individuals.
• Medical Support
RISC assists in cases of medical emergencies, support for medication costs, and referrals for psychiatric care.
• Legal Monitoring
RISC assists returnees navigate Cambodia’s unfamiliar legal landscape. This includes everything from negotiating contracts, mediating conflicts with officials, and supporting individuals who find themselves in Cambodian prisons.
• Field Outreach
RISC regularly follows-up with returnees; through drop-ins at the center, phone calls, in person visits, and regular travels to provincial locations.
The RISC Story
The RISC story is a part of a much bigger story that starts in Cambodia in 1974: the year the brutal, genocidal Khmer Rouge came to power. Over the course of the following four years, they destroyed the country. Millions died. Hundreds of thousands of adults and children fled to refugee camps in Thailand. In the relative safety of the camps, many started or grew their families.
In the 1980s, the United States responded to the refugee crisis by accepting 178,000 refugees to the U.S. Although starvation and genocide were now behind them, there were still many challenges facing this new Cambodia community in America. Parents had to cope with culture shock, past traumas, and life in what was often poor, inner-city American neighborhoods. Although they were granted legal permanent residence, refugees were not automatically granted citizenship, with tragic consequences for some, particularly the children. Many children grew up immersed in local culture, got caught up in risky behavior, and later got in trouble with the law.
In the mid 90’s the US government changed the laws, making deportation automatic for any non-citizen (include those with permanent resident status) who commits certain offenses, including many felonies. At the same time, expansions of the definition of felony offenses, made a very broad spectrum of offenses deportable, including some offenses which would have previously been considered misdemeanors.
These new laws are applied retroactively, only after prison sentences are served in full (often many years after),and include no provisions for judicial discretion, and cannot be appealed. Once deported, a returnee can never return to their home in the U.S.
In 2002 the Cambodian government signed an agreement with the US and deportations began. Over the next 10 years nearly 400 men and women were deported. Deportation for this population often poses an enormous challenge. Individuals are separated from spouses, children, friends, communities and support groups.
Most returnees left Cambodia as very young children, or were born in Thai refugee camps, and have little or no memory or Cambodia. Most have limited familiarity with the language, climate, and culture of Cambodia. Many have no known relatives or forms of support in Cambodia. Deportation is a traumatic experience that often leaves individuals feeling lost, rejected, and disoriented. Many barriers stand between returnees and stable, independent lifestyles.
The year deportations began, 2002, RISC emerged to help returnees overcome these barriers. Originally, RISC was called RAP (the Returnee Assistance Project). In 2005, due to the growing returnee population, RAP expanded its services and changed its name to RISP (the Returnee Integration Support Program). Then in 2009, RISP localized and became a returnee led organization, and changed its name to what it is today: RISC (the Returnee Integration Support Center). As deportations continue, and the returnee community continues to grow, RISC’s services continue to be an integral form of support for a unique group facing an extraordinary challenge.
RISC has four skilled and dedicated staff.
Mr. Sarath Youn (Richard)
Project manager (GIZ local expert) for the Trans-Social Psychological Organization (TPO) in Phnom Penh.
Mr. Paddy Nobble
Interfaith Dialogue worker with the Interfaith Cooperation Forum in Phnom Penh.