The Philippines Navy has blockaded Manila Harbour to keep out further boatloads of Vietnamese refugees.?
The Philippines Navy has blockaded Manila Harbour to keep out further boatloads of Vietnamese refugees. The country is already host to two thousand refugees aboard the freighter Tung An which has been moored in Manila Bay now for five weeks. Another one and a half thousand Vietnamese live in a mainland refugee camp.
SYNOPSIS: The Philippine government's new policy towards refugees was introduced without official announcement. But faced with reports of another two ships with an estimated one thousand refugees aboard heading towards Manila, the government ordered that no more ships should be allowed into Philippines waters. There would be no temporary asylum for the boat-people, their ships would be re-supplied, checked for seaworthiness and sent away.
The government's new policy was too late to prevent six hundred refugees being put ashore on a remote island on Thursday (1 February) about five hundred and sixty kilometres (350 miles) south west of Manila. It seems that one of the two refugee boats reportedly heading for Manila managed to avoid a navy search in the South China Sea and land the refugees on the island. Reuters reports that the refugees will be given temporary aid by the Philippines government. The government says, however, that the freighter Tung An with its two thousand Vietnamese aboard may be sent to Hong Kong next week unless more countries agree to accept people on the ship.
The refugees who are living in the Fabella centre in the Manila suburb of Mandaluyong could be considered the lucky ones. Their conditions are far superior to those endured by the people aboard the Tung An...but officials say the camp is already overcrowded and cannot accept further refugees. The fate of thirty-one people who sneaked into Manila Harbour aboard a fishing boat last week is still being decided.
A United Nations team will visit Hanoi soon to discuss the refugee situation.