A group of 13 Montagnard asylum-seekers who appeared to have had their deportation to Vietnam stalled due to U.N. pressure will be sent back today “on a voluntary basis,” according to the U.N.’s refugee agency, a fact a rights worker disputed.
On Sunday, an official from the Interior Ministry’s refugee department said the deportation of 16 Montagnards from Cambodia had been put on hold due to pressure from the UNHCR over the decision to deny them refugee status. However, Vivian Tan, regional press officer for the UNHCR, said on Tuesday that 13 Montagnards would return “on a voluntarily basis” to the country they claim to have fled because of widespread persecution. Yet rights worker Grace Bui, program director for the Montagnard Assistance Project in Thailand, denied they were returning voluntarily. “They’re being told they have to go back,” she said. “I don’t believe anyone would go home voluntarily.”