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U.S. Department of State

greatseal East Asian Refugee Admissions Program
Fact Sheet released by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
U.S. Department of State, January 18, 2000
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Since 1975, over 1.4 million Indochinese refugees have been resettled in the U.S., either from first asylum countries or through in-country processing programs. The majority (some 900,000) came from Vietnam, but the number also includes significant numbers of Highland and Lowland Lao and Khmer. Although the major resettlement programs for Indochinese refugees have ended or are coming to conclusion, the U.S. continues to process refugees in the region, including Burmese and cases referred to the U.S. by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Comprehensive Plan of Action

The Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) for Indochinese refugees was established in 1989 as a multilateral framework to resolve the outflow of thousands of people, primarily from Vietnam, to other countries in Southeast Asia and to Hong Kong. It preserved the principle of first asylum and provided support for regular departure programs in an attempt to save lives by discouraging further clandestine and unsafe departures from Vietnam and elsewhere. The CPA concluded in Southeast Asia in June 1996 and in Hong Kong in June 1997.

Orderly Departure Program

The Orderly Departure Program office in Thailand was closed at the end of fiscal year 1999. Since 1979, the Orderly Departure Program (ODP) had provided a safe and legal alternative to illegal departures from Vietnam by boat or overland through Cambodia. The program, which had operated from the American Embassy in Bangkok and at a site in Ho Chi Minh City, successfully processed over 506,000 Vietnamese for admission to the U.S. as refugees and immigrants. It reunited nearly 220,000 family members in the U.S. and provided resettlement to some 4,600 former U.S. government employees. More than 80,000 Amerasian children and accompanying family members have been admitted to the U.S. since 1988 in a special ODP subprogram, along with some 165,000 former re-education camp detainees and their immediate family members under another special program begun in 1989. Only a small number of ODP cases remain to be processed. With the closure of the ODP office, responsibility for processing these cases was transferred to the Refugee Resettlement Section (RRS) at the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), which opened in August 1999.

In addition to processing refugee cases, ODP also issued immigrant visas to qualified applicants with the requisite relative in the U.S. Visa services are now provided by the Consulate General in HCMC.

Resettlement Opportunity for Vietnamese Returnees

In March 1996, the Vietnamese government agreed, in principle, to cooperate with the U.S. government on a new resettlement opportunity for certain Vietnamese migrants. This initiative, known as the Resettlement Opportunity for Vietnamese Returnees (ROVR), was designed to offer a final chance at a U.S. resettlement interview to eligible Vietnamese who were then still in first asylum camps in Southeast Asia or who had recently returned to Vietnam. Under ROVR, certain Vietnamese could register for consideration for a resettlement interview with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). ROVR interviews began very slowly due to only small numbers of applicants being cleared for interviews by Vietnamese officials. This situation changed dramatically in October 1997, and now only a few hundred cases remain to be processed.

FY 2000 Admissions Program

In FY 1999, 10,204 refugees entered the United States from East Asia. The majority of FY 1999 admissions were from Vietnam. Other nationalities resettled include Burmese, Laotians, and Indonesians. In FY 2000 we expect approximately 8,000 East Asian refugees to be resettled in the U.S. We expect to complete interviews of the remaining ODP and ROVR applicants by the end of 2000.

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Admissions and Resettlement | Population, Refugees, and Migration