U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Viet Nam

At the end of 1998, Vietnam continued to host an estimated 15,000 refugees from Cambodia. About 281,000 Vietnamese refugees remained in China (including more than 1,000 in Hong Kong). Very few Vietnamese refugees (probably less than two dozen) remained in other countries.

Vietnamese Refugees

An estimated 280,000 ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam remained in mainland China at the end of 1998. Most arrived in 1979, at the time of the China-Vietnam border war, and were not subject to refugee screening under the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indochinese Refugees (CPA) later applied to Vietnamese asylum seekers in other first asylum countries.

At the end of the year, 1,022 Vietnamese refugees remained in Hong Kong. Hong Kong also continued to host 88 Vietnamese determined not to be refugees, along with 517 stateless Vietnamese and their family members.

Only a few Vietnamese refugees remained in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan at the year's end.

Repatriation to Vietnam

With the major repatriation to Vietnam completed by the end of 1996, only six Vietnamese refugees repatriated during 1998. In addition, 71 Vietnamese non-refugees returned from countries where they had sought asylum. These included 48 from Hong Kong, 20 from the Philippines, 2 from Japan, and 1 from Indonesia, Of these, 21 repatriated voluntarily, 37 returned involuntarily through the Orderly Return Program (ORP), and 13 were deported by other means.

In 1998, under the terms of the CPA, UNHCR continued to monitor and assist returnees. The Vietnamese government did not provide material assistance to the returnees, but UNHCR channeled its reintegration assistance through central and provincial authorities. Each returnee received $240, provided he or she arrived in a country of first asylum before September 27, 1991.

The European Union (EU) announced it would close down its three year-long assistance program to returning Vietnamese by July 1999. The EU has provided vocational training, student grants, loans, medical assistance, and social services.

UNHCR has monitored more than 40 percent of the returnee population of nearly 11,000 since 1989. The monitoring has indicated that most problems are related to economic reintegration and to obtaining household registration from local authorities; this has affected many returnees because according to Vietnamese law, one can be a legal resident only through registration of one's household, or family. UNHCR found no indications of persecution or other reprisals toward the returnees. Despite the gradual diminishment of UNHCR's presence in Vietnam, the agency will continue monitoring through 1999.

The United States continued to focus attention on Vietnamese who returned home. Some Vietnamese repatriated voluntarily at the end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996 in order to pursue the Resettlement Opportunities for Vietnamese Refugees (ROVR) Program. Under ROVR, eligible returnees are re-interviewed for possible U.S. resettlement. More than 7,769 Vietnamese were admitted to the United States through ROVR in 1998, while as many as 1,200 may still be eligible. The program is expected to be largely completed by September 1999.

ODP Resettlement

In addition to ROVR, the U.S. Orderly Departure Program (ODP) includes sub-programs for Amerasians, former reeducation camp prisoners, and "regular" ODP applicants (including persons who served with the U.S. military). Nearly 10,615 people resettled in the United States under ODP during U.S. fiscal year 1998, which ended September 30, 1998. These included 386 Amerasians (who were granted immigrant visas) and family members, 2,171 former detainees and family members, and 289 others.

Refugees from Cambodia

An estimated 15,000 refugees from Cambodia remained in Vietnam at the end of 1998. Most were ethnic Vietnamese who arrived in 1993-95. About 2,000 were ethnic Chinese who arrived in 1978-80.

The legal status of Cambodians in Vietnam is that of "alien." However, they are allowed to work and have access to public health and education services. Because of the stable conditions in which the refugees live, UNHCR ended assistance to Cambodian refugees in Vietnam in 1994 and said in 1997 that it expected to have little contact with the refugee population in the future.


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