Policies and Issues relating to Vietnamese Boat People in Malaysia
An island in Malaysia bear witness to the survival of Vietnamese boat people fleeing their war-torn country in the mid-70s. Thousands of Vietnamese boat people were granted temporary refuge on Bidong Island while they were processed for resettlement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The island situated off the coast of Terengganu was designated as the principal refugee camp for Vietnamese boat people in Malaysia in August 1978 with the Malaysia government towing any arriving boatloads of refugees to the island. Despite its ability to receive 4,500 refugees, the less than one square mile island ended up with a refugee population of more than 40,000 by June 1979. This paper presents a literature assessment of Malaysia's strategy and policy adopted during that period of time, as well as current legal framework on refugee and asylum seekers, to better understand how Malaysia dealt with Vietnamese boat people and how it is currently dealing with refugees and asylum seekers.
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