05/18/2013, 00.00
VIETNAM - AUSTRALIA
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Vietnamese boat people return, fleeing regime and poverty, 40 years after the war

In early 2013, at least 450 people have left the country on makeshift boats headed for Australia. A number greater than the total in the last five years, and a growing phenomenon. But Canberra rarley recognizes them as refugees and Hanoi does not want them.

Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Nearly 40 years since the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese boat people fleeing the "unification" after the war with the United States, hundreds of people have again taken to the open sea to leave behind the communist regime. A phenomenon that, has assumed alarming proportions, especially for Australia, the main goal of this emigration. According to the data, in the early months of 2013, at least 460 men, women and children have reached its shores, a number greater than the sum recorded in the last five years. Behind the new exodus is the steady deterioration of human rights in the country and growing difficulties in being able to eke out a living.

Many Vietnamese who have reached Australian shores in recent weeks are held in solitary confinement; Canberra refuses to provide details about their religion and the Vietnamese town of origin. Many say they would rather die than be forced to "return to Vietnam." One of refugees adds that "if we live in poverty, forced to endure repression and threats of the authorities, then we have no choice but to flee."

The boat people face a long and dangerous journey, which for some passes through Indonesia before reaching the final goal. However, in many cases Australia is not willing to accept them and continued growth in numbers - in recent times - is fueling a nationalist campaign and anti-immigration policy.

Conversely, the refugee issue is a political hot potato for  Hanoi because their escape (amid a thousand dangers and difficulties) undermines the communist regime's propaganda that the quality of life in the country is good. It also harks back to the period of the war with the South and the United States, a wound which has yet to be fully healed. The term boat people evokes the memory in the collective imagination of the perilous sea crossings onboard haphazard rafts of at least 800 thousand Vietnamese who, starting from the second half of the 1970s, left the country to escape persecution and abuses taking shelter especially in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Vietnam is still a nation dominated by a single party rule (Communist), which imprisons activists, bloggers and even believers - Catholics in particular - for criticism or dissent on the net and public squares. Some of the refugees fleeing the last period, are faithful who have conducted long protests in Hanoi against the forced expropriation of land and property of the Church. Or activists, who have ended up in the crosshairs of the authorities  for their defense of their property or assets which still today can be taken away by local authorities. But the long journey to the shores of Australia has few happy endings: of the 101 Vietnamese who arrived in 2011, no one has yet been given the right to asylum and at least six were sent back home, for others, the only option is the limbo of illegality.

 

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