Thursday, December 31, 2009

Government urged not to let 'boat people' in

By Fergus Black
Thursday December 31 2009

THE government was advised against accepting refugees from Indo-China because of the state of the economy -- three years before the first group of Vietnamese "boat people" arrived in Ireland.

By 1976, thousands of displaced Indo-Chinese refugees were looking for new homes following upheaval in South Vietnam and Cambodia. Ireland had already accepted over 100 Chilean refugees who were victims of political repression.

But according to Department of Foreign Affairs documents, there was no "domestic public outcry" to accept Indo-Chinese refugees -- apart from an interest in adopting Vietnamese orphans.

"Given our current economic circumstances, very high unemployment with shrinking markets and our continuing commitment to successfully settle our Chilean refugees in the midst of these difficulties, the practical case for accepting Indo-Chinese refuges at present is very weak," wrote one official.

"Economic upswing and higher employment may cause us to reconsider such a request at a future date."

But by August 1979, the situation had changed and the first group of so-called Vietnamese boat people arrived under a major resettlement programme.

- Fergus Black

Irish Independent

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