Vietnam will allow some 50,000 refugees, many of them former detainees of "re-education centers," to emigrate to the United States if they wish under an agreement reached during U.S.-Vietnamese talks in Hanoi, Radio Hanoi said Saturday.
Resettlement of camp inmates has long been a concern of the United States, unable to evacuate many of its Vietnamese employees and senior South Vietnam government officials from Saigon when it was captured in a communist offensive on April 30, 1975.The official radio said after "two days of frank, friendly and constructive talks" in Hanoi, Vietnam "reaffirmed" that "released re-education center detainees and their close family members who wish to live in the United States . . . would be permitted to emigrate overseas."
"Both sides are hopeful that the processing of released detainees can begin within the next several months," said the radio report, quoting from a joint U.S.-Vietnamese statement.
The statement reportedly said both sides agreed more meetings would be needed to work out details of the agreement, which refugee officials in Vietnam said probably would cover some 11,000 former camp inmates and about 40,000 of their relatives.
Last month, Vietnamese Interior Minister Mai Chi Tho said more than 500,000 people, mostly soldiers and officials of the U.S.-backed government of South Vietnam, served time in "re-education" camps.
A U.S. embassy official in Bangkok said most detainees were incarcerated because of their close association with the United States and its allies during the 15 years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Tho said with the release this year of more than 1,000 inmates, including many senior officials, only 190 of the "most dangerous" remain in the camps.
Many former camp inmates are believed to have already fled Vietnam illegally by boat, while others may have resigned themselves to life under the communist regime.