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Voices From the Camps

Vietnamese Children Seeking Asylum

James M. Freeman

Publication Year: 2012

Combining anthropology with advocacy, this book presents the voices and experiences of Vietnamese refugee children neglected and abused by the system intended to help them. The hardships these children endured are disturbing, but more disturbing is the story of how the governments and agencies that set out to care for them eventually became the children’s tormenters.

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xvi

They are gaunt, undersized, and ragged. Their responses to questions range from open defiance to words spoken softly while bowing their heads and averting their eyes. Some have been shattered by the experiences they have endured, others distrust and openly resist authority, while still others vainly hope for a miracle that will rescue them from...

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pp. xvii-xx

We thank the Mackintosh Foundation/US Bui Doi Committee, which granted us funds to initiate our project for repatriated unaccompanied minors and other children at risk in Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam. We are grateful to San Jose State University...

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1. Victims of Politics

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pp. 3-18

On February 7, 2001, six Vietnamese refugees left Thailand for resettlement to France. The oldest of the group had been in Thailand 17 years, the youngest 9 years. Their departure heralded the end of the tragic and turbulent quartercentury saga of...

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2. A Guided Tour of Misery

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pp. 19-39

...To enter, we showed our permit to a guard. The massive steel gate creaked open, we stepped inside, and another guard immediately slammed it shut. A third guard led us along a corridor to the commandant’s o‹ce, where we were given visitor’s passes. The...

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3. Vicissitudes of Fate

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pp. 40-59

Philippine First Asylum Camp on the island of Palawan was the least harsh of the large Southeast Asian detention centers. Unlike the steel cages surrounding the Hong Kong camps, the perimeter fence in Palawan consisted of a few strands of wire that presented no barrier for detainees who wished to climb over them. But they didn’t...

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4. The Unbearable Life

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pp. 60-86

The children of the camps clearly were victimized in numerous ways, but they were anything but passive. Though intimidated by o‹cials, terrorized by gangs, manipulated by adult leaders, and ripped off by food contractors, the children found ways to resist and to fight back, sometimes openly, often in hidden ways. The resisters...

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5. Screening and Its Critics

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pp. 87-106

Because of its far-reaching consequences, nothing in the CPA provoked as much controversy, criticism, and heated emotion as screening. Everybody involved had a vested interest. Asylum seekers sought to be resettled as refugees, often risking their lives and those of their families. Countries of first asylum tried to get rid...

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6. Repatriation

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pp. 107-137

Unhcr’s difficulties with Vietnamese asylum seekers increased when UNHCR expanded beyond its role as protector to include the contradictory one of advocating the repatriation of many of these same people.1 Asylum seekers, feeling betrayed by the organization that was supposed to protect them, and disillusioned...

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7. Resettlement

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pp. 138-163

Unaccompanied minors have been resettled in the United States since 1975. Prior to the Comprehensive Plan of Action, they stayed as a matter of routine in refugee camps for six months to a year and then were resettled. After the CPA was...

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8. Interventions

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pp. 164-177

We have called attention to the shortcomings of individuals and agencies entrusted with the care of unaccompanied minors. The children were shortchanged; that is why we intervened to assist them. Were we justified? Nancy Scheper-Hughes has noted that anthropologists are changing their attitudes...

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9. Continuing Concerns

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pp. 178-190

The terrible abuse and neglect suffered by millions of children throughout the world are seemingly endless. In war zones, children are witnesses to and often the victims of horrible atrocities. With the threat of execution if they refuse, they...

Abbreviations Used in This Book

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pp. 191-192


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pp. 193-214


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pp. 215-232


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pp. 233-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780295801612
E-ISBN-10: 0295801611
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295983592
Print-ISBN-10: 0295983590

Publication Year: 2012