The Indochinese Exodus:

A Humanitarian Dilemma

ID-79-20: Published: Apr 24, 1979. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 1979.

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Massive refugee migrations in Southeast Asia set off in 1975 by changes of government in Vietman, Cambodia, and Laos, are a problem of both humanitarian and political concern. The refugees pose potentially disruptive political problems for the asylum countries, Thailand, Malyasia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. Only a few countries, the United States, France, Australia, and Canada, have accepted an appreciable number of refugees for resettlement.

In an effort to obtain worldwide participation in aleviating the Indochina refugee crisis, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has changed its funding program and has held international conferences aimed at obtaining more resettlement offers. It is imperative that appropriate asylum and additional temporary care facilities be provided and effectively managed. Current law does not clearly express U.S. intentions and commitments to refugee resettlement and has made planning and processing of refugees very difficult. Commitments need to be more formally embodied in law to express the will of Congress and possibly to motivate other nations to share refugee relief. A refugee admission and resettlement policy needs to be established.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: In deliberations on authorizing or appropriating funds for temporary care and U.S. resettlement programs for Indochinese refugees, Congress should require long-range data on: anticipated number of refugees, number to be resettled in the United States, estimated costs of the program, and the extent to which the United States is to provide funds.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, through the U.S. mission to the United Nations should: press to establish additional temporary care holding camps on islands in the South China Sea, or at other locations in the Far East, that would reduce refugee population visibility to local populations and relieve the pressures on first asylum countries; and inform the UNHCR of the need for more aggresive field monitoring and the need to insure that refugees are provided asylum and suitable care. To improve the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's (HEW) management and control of federal funds for refugee resettlement, the Secretary of HEW should require the monitoring of refugee program funds be tightened through closer surveillance by HEW regional office personnel and state and local government agencies; and by audits of HEW administered funds.

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