Sixteen Montagnards who fled persecution in Vietnam have “volunteered” to be repatriated after their application for asylum was rejected by the UNHCR. The Christian Montagnards risked their lives to flee to Thailand and risked their lives again to cross illegally into Cambodia fleeing repatriation to an area of Vietnam where Montagnards are experiencing heavy persecution, including forced recantation of their faith and torture at the hands of the Vietnamese government. The UNHCR claims that there is not substantial evidence of persecution for their asylum cases. The UNHCR has been criticized for ignoring the persecution that Christian asylum seekers that have fled to Thailand and Vietnam are facing. In the case of these 16 asylum seekers, they have exhausted every attempt to appeal the rejection of their asylum application, leaving them little choice but to return to the place they fled.
06/09/2017 Vietnam (RFA) – Cambodia repatriated 16 Montagnard asylum seekers to Vietnam on Thursday after they failed to meet requirements for gaining refugee status in Cambodia, Cambodian authorities said.
The 16, who agreed to return to Vietnam afte exhausting their appeals, were accompanied by officials from Cambodia and the U.N High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) until they were handed over to Vietnamese authorities, a Cambodian immigration spokesman said.
“Cambodia did not deport them. The UNHCR arranged their return as these [Montagnards] were not granted refugee status,” Tan Sovichea, spokesman and director of the Immigration Department’s Refugee Office of the Cambodian Ministry of Interior, told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“When they filed their appeals, perhaps they gave up hope as they didn’t have additional supporting evidence. That is why they voluntarily agreed to return while the UN was making arrangements for them,” he added.
Tan Sovichea added that the UNHCR had been working with Vietnamese authorities to ensure that the Montagnards would be safely returned and protected from persecution for their attempt to flee the country.
Cambodian authorities were scheduled to return to the capital Phnom Penh upon reaching the Cambodia-Vietnam border, , while the UNHCR officials would continue the trip with Montagnards and Vietnamese authorities until they reach the location where the would-be asylum seekers would be settled down.
The UNHCR in Cambodia was not immediately available for comment.