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The plight of the boat people became an international humanitarian crisis. The UNHCR, under the auspices of the United Nations, set up refugee camps in neighboring countries to process the "boat people" and was awarded the 1981 Nobel Peace Prize for its work. The Orderly Departure Program from 1979 until 1994 was one such program that helped to resettle refugees in the United States. The United States and Vietnam signed an agreement on November 15, 2005 which allows those Vietnamese to immigrate who were not able to do so before the humanitarian program ended in 1994. Hong Kong adopted the "port of first asylum policy," and received over 100,000 of them in the city at its peak in late 1980s. Many refugee camps were set up in its territories. Frequent violent clashes between the boat people and security forces caused public outcry and mounting concerns in the early 1990s since many camps are very close to high density residential areas. The countries that accepted most of these refugees are:

  • United States: 823,000
  • Australia and Canada: 137,000 each
  • France: 96,000
  • Germany and UK: 19,000 each

By the mid-1990s, the number of refugees fleeing from Vietnam had dwindled. Many refugee camps were closed. The market reform of Vietnam, the imminent return of Hong Kong to China by Britain and the financial incentives for voluntary returning to Vietnam caused many boat people to elect to return to Vietnam during the 1990s. Consequently, most remaining asylees voluntarily or were forcibly repatriated, although a very small number (about 2500) were granted residency by the Hong Kong Government in 2002, marking an end to the Vietnam boat people problem. In 2005, the remaining refugees in the Phillippines (around 200) were granted asylum in Canada and the United States

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