A long, lonely voyage by a group of Vietnamese refugees ended in the Philippines on Friday (2 September).
A long, lonely voyage by a group of Vietnamese refugees ended in the Philippines on Friday (2 September). They had completed a more than normally treacherous boat trip to freedom.
SYNOPSIS: The group had travelled in motley fishing boats from Vietnam, arriving several days earlier at Palawan, south of Manila. While most such Vietnamese refugees take the shorter, safer routes to the Malaysian peninsula, this group went the long way, crossing the often treacherous China Sea. The risks were high and it took them a month to reach their destination.
The Philippines Government provided a naval ship to transport the refugees to Manila, where their arrival was supervised by police and government officials. The most welcome sight for the newcomers, though, must have been the food and drinks provided by Red Cross workers. For the past month they had survived on little more than rice and water.
One of the women refugees gave birth to a daughter shortly after reaching Palawan, and had to be carried by stretcher from the naval ship after arriving at Manila. Red Cross workers took care of the baby, the woman's fifth child, and carried her to the ambulance after her mother.
The group of refugees includes businessmen, police officers, school teachers, mechanics, their wives, children and relatives who manages to get away with them. They are among 700 so-called "boat people" who have been given temporary asylum in Manila, while they await decisions from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The United States, which has admitted some 150,000 refugees since the Communist victory in Vietnam, has announced that it will take a further 7,000 "boat people". But the criteria for entry hasn't been decided yet.
Meanwhile the refugees will stay at the Jose Fabella Welfare Centre, which is jointly run by the Philippines Welfare authorities and the United Nations. The overcrowded conditions are hardly ideal. But to the ??? voyagers it's a welcome home at last.