UNHCR Reports Montagnards Well in VN

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.

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