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Vietnamese Boat People

Volume 172: debated on Thursday 17 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to tackle the root causes of the departure of boat people from Vietnam; what role non-governmental organisations can play in this; and if he will make a statement.

I welcome the recent UNHCR initiative aimed at tackling the root causes of the migration of Vietnamese boat people through intensified nongovernmental organisation (NGO) activity. In response, I am pleased to announce the setting up of a special scheme to support NGO activities in those parts of north Vietnam from which boat people have predominantly come in recent years. Under the special scheme, ODA will meet 80 per cent. of the costs of agreed humanitarian and economic projects put forward by British NGOs in the target areas. A sum of £1 million has been set aside to support these projects, separate from and additional to the allocation of £20 million for projects worldwide under the joint funding scheme.Though most of the population in the camps is from the north, not all boat people come from the north. Indeed, two thirds of arrivals in Hong Kong this year have come from the south of Vietnam. I have therefore decided to add Vietnam to the list of countries participating in the general joint funding scheme, under which the ODA meets 50 per cent. of the costs of agreed NGO projects. The details of the new scheme will be discussed with British agencies at working level shortly. I am confident that we shall receive a good response.