Assistant High Commissioner winds up Asia mission with Viet Nam visit

Briefing Notes, 28 April 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 28 April 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller, today wound up a five-day mission to Asia in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, where she agreed with the government that UNHCR and Viet Nam would continue their cooperation to resolve the issue of the ethnic minority Montagnards who had arrived in neighbouring Cambodia.

An agreement signed in Hanoi in January 2005 by UNHCR, Viet Nam and Cambodia set out the framework for some 750 Montagnards in Cambodia to either be resettled to a third country or return to Vie Nam. Most of that caseload, 605 persons, has now been resettled, mainly to the United States, with some 190 returning to Viet Nam including 94 who were deported and 96 who returned voluntarily.

During her visit to Viet Nam, Feller spent two days travelling in the Central Highlands where she saw for herself the conditions of returnees and spoke with them privately. UNHCR has conducted 10 other monitoring missions to the Highlands and has no serious concerns about the conditions of the returnees. The Vietnamese government said it would continue to give UNHCR access to the returnees in the Central Highlands saying the 2005 Memorandum of Understanding had worked well, and that the government would continue to work with UNHCR and other countries for those Montagnards who wished to live in other countries.

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Statelessness in Viet Nam

Viet Nam's achievements in granting citizenship to thousands of stateless people over the last two years make the country a global leader in ending and preventing statelessness.

Left stateless after the 1975 collapse of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, nearly 1,400 former Cambodian refugees received citizenship in Viet Nam in 2010, the culmination of five years of cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Vietnamese government. Most of the former refugees have lived in Viet Nam since 1975, all speak Vietnamese and have integrated fully. Almost 1,000 more are on track to get their citizenship in the near future. With citizenship comes the all-important family registration book that governs all citizens' interactions with the government in Viet Nam, as well as a government identification card. These two documents allow the new citizens to purchase property, attend universities and get health insurance and pensions. The documents also allow them to do simple things they could not do before, such as own a motorbike.

Viet Nam also passed a law in 2009 to restore citizenship to Vietnamese women who became stateless in the land of their birth after they married foreign men, but divorced before getting foreign citizenship for them and their children.

UNHCR estimates that up to 12 million people around the world are currently stateless.

Statelessness in Viet Nam

Viet Nam: Without a CountryPlay video

Viet Nam: Without a Country

In the 1970s, thousands of people fled to Viet Nam to escape the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Some of those who stayed in places Like Ho Chi Minh City became stateless.