Policy Change Could Cut Asia Refugee Flow

From Reuters

A State Department panel today recommended fundamental changes in U.S. policy on admitting Indochinese refugees that could eventually cut the numbers entering this country.

Of about 2 million Asians who have fled since communists took power in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in 1975, the United States has accepted 800,000.

The Indochinese Refugee Panel, headed by former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray, said that after a two-year transition period only people meeting the legal definition of refugee and family members granted the right to immigrate should be allowed into the United States.

A refugee is defined under U.S. law and international law as a person with a well-founded fear of persecution.


“Others seeking admission to the United States solely on the basis of family ties should do so by means of immigration processes,” the report said.

Likely to Find Favor

The findings of the report are likely to find favor with an Administration that officials acknowledge would like to see a reduction in admissions--currently running at about 50,000 per year--of Indochinese refugees.

But it held out little hope in the near future of a U.S. home for most people who have long lived in Southeast Asian refugee camps.


There are about 154,000 people in such camps in addition to about 250,000 Cambodians living in camps just inside Thailand who are regarded by the Bangkok government as “displaced persons,” not refugees.

“To avoid inducing the arrival of additional persons who do not qualify as refugees, however, it may be necessary during the near term to maintain this (camp) population in first asylum countries until there is a further and sustained drop in the arrival rate,” the report said.

The report, given to Secretary of State George P. Shultz today, said this argument was based on the panel’s conclusion that many more people were fleeing communist Indochina in search of better lives as opposed to fear of persecution than was true earlier.