40 years on, fleeing Vietnamese take to seas again

05.09.13
In this photo taken on April 14, 2013, a fishing boat carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers nears the shore of Australia's Christmas Island. Nearly 40 years after hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled the country's Communist regime by boat, a growing number are taking to the water again. The latest boat carrying Vietnamese cruised into Australia's Christmas Island one morning last month, according to witnesses on the shore. AP PhotoRead more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/09/3388590_p2/40-years-on-fleeing-vietnamese.html#storylink=cpy

In this photo taken on April 14, 2013, a fishing boat carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers nears the shore of Australia’s Christmas Island. Nearly 40 years after hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled the country’s Communist regime by boat, a growing number are taking to the water again. The latest boat carrying Vietnamese cruised into Australia’s Christmas Island one morning last month, according to witnesses on the shore.

Vietnam remains a one-party state that arrests and hands long prison sentences to government critics, including bloggers and Roman Catholic activists. Human Rights Watch alleges torture in custody is routine. Christian groups have reported on alleged suspicious deaths in custody.

In this photo taken on April 14, 2013, Australian Customs officials search Vietnamese asylum seekers and their belongings soon after their arrival on Christmas Island, Australia. Nearly 40 years after hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled the country's Communist regime by boat, a growing number are taking to the water again. The latest boat carrying Vietnamese cruised into Australia's Christmas Island one morning last month, according to witnesses on the shore. AP PhotoRead more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/09/3388590_p2/40-years-on-fleeing-vietnamese.html#storylink=cpy

In this photo taken on April 14, 2013, Australian Customs officials search Vietnamese asylum seekers and their belongings soon after their arrival on Christmas Island, Australia. Nearly 40 years after hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled the country’s Communist regime by boat, a growing number are taking to the water again. The latest boat carrying Vietnamese cruised into Australia’s Christmas Island one morning last month, according to witnesses on the shore.Most independent human rights activists say that repression has increased over the last two years.Little is known about the background of those that have made the trip this year.

At least some of those who have arrived in the recent past are Roman Catholics who took part in a protest near a cathedral in the capital, Hanoi, said Kaye Bernard, a refugee advocate who has met some arrivals from Hanoi. Others are said to be involved in land disputes with local authorities.

“I don’t think you can generalize but there has been an increase in repression in Vietnam. The sentences are getting longer. There is more fear,” said Hoi Trinh, an Australia lawyer of Vietnamese descent who heads an organization helping asylum-seekers. “If more people are more fearful, then more of them will flee.”

Peter Hansen, a lawyer and Vietnam expert who advised in some appeals involving recent arrivals from Vietnam, said the small number of cases he was aware of didn’t involve intellectuals, bloggers or political dissidents most targeted in the current campaign by the government. But he cautioned that current Australian guidelines on the validity of claims from Vietnam didn’t take into account the reality of persecution against certain religious sects in specific parts of the country.

“I can’t account for why there has been a significant increase this year, but I can tell you now that I’m absolutely certain that there is a proportion of that number who weren’t motivated to come here for economic reasons,” he said.

Neighboring countries like Cambodia have continued to receive small numbers of asylum-seekers since the 1990s. Many thousands of Vietnamese have left the country to work in Asia or beyond, either illegally or as exported labor. Many don’t return after their contracts end.

Australia appears to be the destination of choice, but the country is already facing a record number of asylum-seekers this year. Under public pressure, the Australian government has made it more difficult for people to be considered for asylum and often detained migrants on isolated islands away from lawyers. Critics say Canberra is avoiding its responsibilities under the U.N. refugee conventions by taking these measures.

Along with other nationalities, the Vietnamese are kept in detention, either on the mainland, on Christmas Island or on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus. Families and unaccompanied children are kept in lower-security detention facilities. Four Vietnamese, including a teenager, escaped from one such center in Darwin earlier this week, according to authorities.

Australia’s desire to get tough on Vietnamese arrivals appears to have run into a problem: The government in Hanoi has shown no interest in accepting the asylum-seekers, according to activists and lawyers.

Australia can’t simply put the migrants on the first plane to Hanoi. They need to have travel documents issued to them by Vietnamese authorities, who must first confirm their identities.

Of the 101 Vietnamese who arrived in Australia in 2011, only six have so far been returned to Vietnam. Very few, if any, have been granted asylum, according to lawyers and activists.

Vietnam remains a one-party state that arrests and hands long prison sentences to government critics, including bloggers and Roman Catholic activists. Human Rights Watch alleges torture in custody is routine. Christian groups have reported on alleged suspicious deaths in custody.

In this photo taken on April 14, 2013, a group of Vietnamese asylum seekers are taken by barge to a jetty on Australia's Christmas Island. Nearly 40 years after hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled the country's Communist regime by boat, a growing number are taking to the water again. The latest boat carrying Vietnamese cruised into Australia's Christmas Island one morning last month, according to witnesses on the shore. AP PhotoRead more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/09/3388590_p2/40-years-on-fleeing-vietnamese.html#storylink=cpy

In this photo taken on April 14, 2013, a group of Vietnamese asylum seekers are taken by barge to a jetty on Australia’s Christmas Island. Nearly 40 years after hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled the country’s Communist regime by boat, a growing number are taking to the water again. The latest boat carrying Vietnamese cruised into Australia’s Christmas Island one morning last month, according to witnesses on the shore.

Most independent human rights activists say that repression has increased over the last two years.

Little is known about the background of those that have made the trip this year.

At least some of those who have arrived in the recent past are Roman Catholics who took part in a protest near a cathedral in the capital, Hanoi, said Kaye Bernard, a refugee advocate who has met some arrivals from Hanoi. Others are said to be involved in land disputes with local authorities.

“I don’t think you can generalize but there has been an increase in repression in Vietnam. The sentences are getting longer. There is more fear,” said Hoi Trinh, an Australia lawyer of Vietnamese descent who heads an organization helping asylum-seekers. “If more people are more fearful, then more of them will flee.”

Peter Hansen, a lawyer and Vietnam expert who advised in some appeals involving recent arrivals from Vietnam, said the small number of cases he was aware of didn’t involve intellectuals, bloggers or political dissidents most targeted in the current campaign by the government. But he cautioned that current Australian guidelines on the validity of claims from Vietnam didn’t take into account the reality of persecution against certain religious sects in specific parts of the country.

“I can’t account for why there has been a significant increase this year, but I can tell you now that I’m absolutely certain that there is a proportion of that number who weren’t motivated to come here for economic reasons,” he said.

Neighboring countries like Cambodia have continued to receive small numbers of asylum-seekers since the 1990s. Many thousands of Vietnamese have left the country to work in Asia or beyond, either illegally or as exported labor. Many don’t return after their contracts end.

Australia appears to be the destination of choice, but the country is already facing a record number of asylum-seekers this year. Under public pressure, the Australian government has made it more difficult for people to be considered for asylum and often detained migrants on isolated islands away from lawyers. Critics say Canberra is avoiding its responsibilities under the U.N. refugee conventions by taking these measures.

Along with other nationalities, the Vietnamese are kept in detention, either on the mainland, on Christmas Island or on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus. Families and unaccompanied children are kept in lower-security detention facilities. Four Vietnamese, including a teenager, escaped from one such center in Darwin earlier this week, according to authorities.

Australia’s desire to get tough on Vietnamese arrivals appears to have run into a problem: The government in Hanoi has shown no interest in accepting the asylum-seekers, according to activists and lawyers.

Australia can’t simply put the migrants on the first plane to Hanoi. They need to have travel documents issued to them by Vietnamese authorities, who must first confirm their identities.

Of the 101 Vietnamese who arrived in Australia in 2011, only six have so far been returned to Vietnam. Very few, if any, have been granted asylum, according to lawyers and activists.

 

MiamiHerald

 

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/09/3388590_p2/40-years-on-fleeing-vietnamese.html#storylink=cpy

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