Vietnam Center & Archive News and Updates

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ODP Reopened & Reclosed

UNHCR’s (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) ODP (Orderly Departure Program) was instituted at the first International conference on Indochinese Refugees in Geneva in May of 1979 (UN meeting on refugees and displaced persons in Southeast Asia) as a humanitarian endeavor in response to the high mortality of  “boat people” (Vietnamese refugees who fled Vietnam by boat after the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975).  Nearly 30 nations participated in ODP, allowing Vietnamese refugees to emigrate from Vietnam in a legal, safe, and orderly manner instead of risking their lives at sea.  The number of “boat people” who left Vietnam in the late ‘70’s and ‘80s is estimated from 1 to 2 million. No one knows the exact number of Vietnamese “boat people”, or how many of these refugees perished at sea or were killed by pirates. The ODP closed on September 30, 1994, however, on November 15, 2005 the U.S. and Vietnam signed an agreement resulting in the reopening of the ODP and the McCain Amendment (ammendment headed by John McCain which allowed the adult children of former Vietnamese reeducation camp detainees to immigrate to the U.S. along with their parents). The renewal of ODP ended on February 28, 2009 and the renewal of the McCain Amendment ended on September 30, 2009.

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