Problems in Processing Vietnamese Refugees From the Dong Rek Camp in Cambodia

NSIAD-85-132: Published: Aug 16, 1985. Publicly Released: Aug 26, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Department of State and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) efforts to assist, process, and resettle Vietnamese refugees who were encamped at Dong Rek Camp near the Thailand-Cambodian border.

Processing of these refugees for resettlement in the United States and other countries began in early November 1984, but the processing authority was delayed because of: (1) the number of Vietnamese and Cambodians already in Thailand without resettlement opportunities; (2) the lack of support by most countries for continued resettlement efforts; and (3) disagreements on solutions for those Dong Rek Vietnamese not resettled. In addition, Thailand was afraid that the resettlement efforts would encourage other Vietnamese to flee. On January 24, 1985, before INS completed its processing of refugees eligible for resettlement in the United States, Vietnamese forces attacked the camp and all of the camp's residents were evacuated to Thailand. GAO found that approximately one-third of all the Vietnamese from Dong Rek were resettled, and the United States accepted about 76 percent of those refugees. About two-thirds of those accepted by the United States were Vietnamese having some former business or other ties to the United States, and one-fourth had family ties in the United States. However, of the 15 countries involved in the resettlement of Vietnamese, only the United States, Australia, and Canada made significant contributions toward the Dong Rek resettlement effort. Finally, due to a dramatic increase in the number of Vietnamese arriving at the camp after the start of resettlement negotiations, Thailand and the international community have been left with the responsibility of their continued care.

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