Indochinese Refugees:

Protection, Care, and Processing Can Be Improved

ID-80-46: Published: Aug 19, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 19, 1980.

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Since the Communist governments were established in Indochina in 1975, more than 1.2 million refugees have fled their homelands to other Asian asylum countries due to political persecution, human rights abuses, warfare, and famine. The refugee exodus reached a peak of 58,000 a month in June 1979 but has since subsided to about 3,100 a month. In April 1979, GAO reported on the international efforts to resettle these refugees; the current situation is described.

To curtail the large number of refugees fleeing Vietnam by boat, Vietnam and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reached an agreement in May 1979 for a direct orderly departure program (ODP). Difficulties have arisen that are hampering its implementation. By early 1980, only 226 persons had departed Vietnam for the United States under the program. Success of ODP is essential if the inherent risks and hardships experienced by the 1979 boat people are to be avoided in the future. Two refugee processing centers (RPC) are now under construction to accommodate 60,000 refugees. Moving refugees to these centers will relieve some of the burden on asylum countries. In many cases, camps and transit centers are not adequately protecting refugees from crime and abuse. In addition, not all the camps are providing adequate care, including: food, medical care, shelter, water and sanitation facilities, supplies, safety, education, recreation, and self-reliance projects. The absence of these essential services creates discontent among refugees, severely hampers resettlement, and may make other solutions, such as voluntary repatriation or local integration, impossible.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General and Immigration and Naturalization Service, should assess the existing procedures and eliminate the extraneous procedures with a view to expediting resettlement. The Secretary should try to minimize the practice of frequent shifting of monthly quotas between countries of asylum. The Secretary should also: (1) give special attention to resolving the problems associated with ODP and seeking ways to guarantee its success; (2) assess whether the RPC's are indeed being established as international refugee facilities; and (3) assess the extent to which the United States and other countries are expected to use and financially support these international centers. The Secretary should encourage UNHCR to extend its involvement to encompass contingency planning and staffing for the efficient administration of its activities. Accordingly, the Secretary should, through the U.S. Mission in Geneva, encourage the UNHCR to: (1) continue to improve the quality of protection and temporary care for Southeast Asian refugees; and (2) make certain that the expenditure of funds is closely monitored. The Secretary should also continue to recognize that the UNHCR needs flexibility in the manner in which it carries out its activities.

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