A UN High Commissioner for Refugees mission to Vietnam’s Central Highlands to visit 21 Montagnards recently returned from Cambodia has found them doing well and receiving job offers, the UNHCR said in a Friday statement.
The Montagnards included about 10 of the 94 rejected asylum-seekers that were forcefully deported from Phnom Penh on July 20, the UNHCR said.
Hasim Utkan, UNHCR regional representative, and a Vietnamese UNHCR official, found the 21 “doing well at home, receiving assistance, job offers and training,” during a two-day visit this week, the statement said.
The UNHCR representatives conducted the interviews in the presence of three Vietnamese officials, and some of the interviews were conducted on a group basis.
“The Montagnards visited did not appear to be in any way endangered or threatened, and many seemed to be happy to be back with their families,” the UNHCR said.
“This was a very encouraging and enlightening visit,” Utkan was quoted as saying. “It’s a process well worth continuing.”
The 94 were deported after police wielding batons entered a refugee facility in Phnom Penh, hitting some Montagnards who did not want to leave before physically forcing them onto buses and escorting them to the Vietnam border. Rights groups voiced concern that some of the 94 should have been granted refugee status and may face ill treatment in Vietnam.
But Utkan reported the Montagnards he met were receiving aid from authorities.
“There seems to have been a genuine and positive attempt by the authorities to provide assistance to returnees—such as kerosene, rice, salt and seedlings,” Utkan said.
The interviewees generally appeared relaxed, the UNHCR added. “We could visit whoever we wanted. We asked the Vietnamese authorities to see specific cases, and this was arranged without problems,” Utkan said.
The UNHCR also visited three Montagnards that a human rights group had reported were in hiding or prison. The UNHCR named neither the Montagnards nor the rights group, but said the two reportedly in hiding “seemed astonished by the allegation,” while the person allegedly imprisoned said this had never been the case.
The UNHCR met one woman who “appeared shy” during an interview and her case is being “followed up.” The UNHCR statement did not elaborate further.