27 Vietnamese Montagnards To Finland As Refugees
Two Dozen Vietnamese Montagnards Go To Finland As Refugees – UN
New York, May 11 2005 3:00PM
The first group of Vietnamese Montagnards who trekked through jungle to north-eastern Cambodia were on their way to Finland today, after an orientation by United Nations refugee agency officials.
The 27 refugees, who were flying from the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, to the coastal Finnish city of Oulu, were the first group to go from the 72 Montagnards recently accepted for resettlement in Finland.
"There were a lot of smiles and some laughter during our orientation briefing. Overall, they seemed a bit nervous but excited about their new future," said a protection officer from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
A second group of the Montagnards is scheduled to fly to Finland in early June after taking a Finnish orientation course this week.
The mainly Christian Montagnards fled Viet Nam's Central Highlands after the Government cracked down on protests against land confiscation and religious persecution in April of last year. They followed an earlier group of more than 1,000 who fled to Cambodia after similar protests in February 2001.
Most Montagnard refugees who reach Cambodia, which has declined to accept them, have preferred to resettle in the United States, where there already is a large Montagnard community and connections with Americans who fought in Viet Nam.
Others have gone to Sweden. Canada is also now accepting Montagnards for resettlement.
A major breakthrough was made in January when Viet Nam initiated tripartite consultations with Cambodia and UNHCR, leading to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that institutionalized temporary protection for Montagnards in Cambodia and gave them the options of return or resettlement.
The agreed mechanism includes a commitment from Viet Nam that any returnees will not be prosecuted or discriminated against on the basis of their illegal departure.