Boat People

Following the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the victory of communist powers stemming from North Vietnam, many Vietnamese people sought a way of escaping their country due to the emerging risks on the safety of themselves as well as their families. In order to flee from Vietnam, there were multiple methods that were employed such as traveling on land to neighboring countries. Notable examples include going north into China or going west through Cambodia in order to reach Thailand border camps. The reason why many Vietnamese people didn’t settle in Cambodia was due to the country undergoing its own political crisis that made it unsafe for refugees to live there but also due to the fact that Thailand was home to many operations that provided humanitarian relief specifically meant for the Vietnamese which made it a much appealing option for those fleeing Vietnam.¬†

While fleeing via land was an option, it was not as popular as by sea because many Vietnamese people could not afford the costs of getting smuggled to these different countries as the country’s borders were heavily guarded and valid documentation was legally required to exit the country which many did not have the privilege of having. Furthermore, the geography of the area proved too difficult for many Vietnamese to navigate across without posing an immense threat to their safety. Escaping by sea was the best option because of Vietnam’s vast coastline that allowed many to leave discretely as well as it was less expensive to secure a spot on a boat depending on its kind. However, since a considerable amount of people sought to flee Vietnam, many boats faced overcrowding issues that resulted in dangerous conditions for all people on board. Combined with the flimsy boats used to embark on these journeys proved to be very dangerous for the boat people. Plagued with disease, starvation, dehydration, pirates, and sea conditions, many were unable to survive the journey. Despite this, many were also rescued by freighters and navy vessels which ensured their safe arrival to their destination country.

Of those who were fortunate enough to survive, many were able to reach countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Hong Kong through the sea. Upon arrival, the boat people would be moved to refugee processing centers where they typically would be registered and given identification documents as well as were provided many resources and supplies before getting placed in a refugee camp where they awaited resettlement. This resettlement can take place either within the country in which they were processed in or in the United States in which individuals are selected to be placed there. Once safe, many of the boat people were able to integrate themselves within the society of their host country, carrying with them a new and diverse culture that is welcomed. However, sometimes boat people remained in refugee camps or their host countries to wait for the political situation in Vietnam to de-escalate to which they would return back to Vietnam under safer conditions.

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