Sixteen years of waiting for a new home finally ended Monday for 229 Vietnamese refugees who left Manila for Los Angeles to join relatives resettled in the United States.
Some were taking children who were born in the Philippines and lack any memory of the country their parents fled more than a decade ago.
Most of the Vietnamese left their homeland after the communists defeated the South Vietnamese government in 1975. Others were allowed to leave Vietnam in the 1980s under a U.S.-sponsored program for Vietnamese whose fathers were believed to be American servicemen, and their relatives.
They were to undergo a few months of cultural training in the Philippines, but were then denied U.S. resettlement rights after their documents were found to be incomplete or falsified.
When in 1996 the United Nations cut off funding for Vietnamese camps throughout Asia, and the Philippines and other countries began forcible repatriation of the refugees, then President Fidel Ramos allowed the Vietnamese to stay indefinitely under the supervision of the Roman Catholic church.
Last year, the United States and the Philippines announced a joint plan to offer resettlement to 1,855 Vietnamese asylum seekers living in the Philippines since 1989.
Patrick Corcoran, a representative of the International Organization for Migration, which helped facilitate the transfer, said interviews by U.S. immigration officials were still continuing, but a total of 1,600 refugees were expected to be approved.
According to Hoi Trinh, a Vietnamese-Australian lawyer who helped the refugees resettle in the United States, more than 300 have been denied permission, including those with Filipino spouses, the AP reports.