Refugees reject offer to settle in US

PHNOM PENH: Three quarters of Vietnamese refugees who recently fled persecution in their homeland and were offered residency in the United States in November rejected the proposal, the UN refugee agency said yesterday. 

Only 41 of nearly 200 refugees accepted the November offer to move to America, said Cathy Shin, a protection officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees here. 

It was not immediately clear why so many of the refugees – who come from various minority groups and are known collectively as Montagnards – rejected the offer. 

However, the UN agency said in a statement that it was “concerned that some Montagnards are leaving their homes under the mistaken impression that the refugee agency can help them regain their ancestral lands which they claim have been confiscated.” 

This was “well beyond the scope of the agency's mandate and they have been concerned that Montagnards may be exposing themselves to ... risk acting on this illusion.” 

More than 1,000 Montagnards fled Vietnam's Central Highlands after a 2001 crackdown against them for protesting alleged religious repression and land confiscation. The refugees have been resettled in third countries, mostly the United States. – AP  

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