But he was grateful to get out of the camp.
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In the labor camp, hard manual labor made me realize what I was capable of, that I am strong and not going to die, I will survive no matter what. In May of , he decided he would try to escape again. Ryu had been working in coal mines, a job he came to appreciate because he was fed well and paid in rice. But he couldn't shake his memories of the outside world, and when a train broke down outside the mine where he worked, he didn't hesitate to board it. Ryu tried to fit in with other passengers and became elated when he found out that it was headed to a border town near China.
In the middle of the ride, though, he was asked for his tickets and paperwork and could not produce them. Train security locked him in a holding area but, again, Ryu managed to escape.
Cambodians in the United States: Refugees, Immigrants, American Ethnic Minority
This time he went through a window, and managed to reach the border of China by hopping trains, swimming across rivers and hiking barefoot — sometimes days at a time — until he collapsed on a highway in Chinese territory. A Chinese man took him in and introduced him to a South Korean pastor who said he'd try to help him get to South Korea safely. Instead, he was granted political asylum in the United States, where he lives today.
McKay says LiNK has built a network of partners on the ground, none of whom are associated with any government entities. They run special rescue routes through China to South Korea, and have established groups of people they can trust to help them move refugees discreetly through North Korea, China and Southeast Asia to get to asylum in countries like South Korea or the United States. LiNK claims to have a 95 percent escape success rate, which McKay described as "above the industry standard" of 70 percent for organizations that do similar work.
LiNK has rescued refugees since it began helping North Koreans escape, and it polls each of them on their reasons for trying to leave the country. Often times, McKay said, the outside influence refugees came in contact with could be as basic as South Korean or American television dramas. In those shows, they would see regular people driving nice cars or eating white rice, and wonder why they weren't afforded the same luxuries. They did a pretty good job at for a long time.
But now there is so much dissemination of outside info coming into the country… and it's creating awareness of the outside world. In the last year, though, those rescues have been happening less often. McKay says just 1, North Korean refugees safely resettled in South Korea in , a significant drop from years prior. Human Rights Watch has also documented an increase in the number of North Korean refugees that China is detaining and sending back home. Chinese officials have cracked down on routes used by LiNK and similar organizations to help North Koreans escape, and the North Korean regime has increased security on border areas like the one Ryu crossed to safety.
In part, the regime is responding to the growing amount of outside information that is spreading throughout the country and leading people to try and make an escape. The world outside North Korea is so much better,'" McKay said.
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A group of "Vision Donors" supports LiNK's operations budget, but percent of any outside donations goes directly to the refugee rescue program, its "Changing the Narrative" work, and a refugee empowerment program for North Koreans who have been resettled. McKay compared what's happening in North Korea to the crisis in Syria , pointing out that Americans often recognize the Syrian people as being separate from the Syrian government, but struggle to show the same empathy for North Korean citizens living under the North Korean regime.
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Daily Impact. Mar 19, More Videos. Charles Ryu poses for a picture wearing a LiNK t-shirt. Besides Cambodians, refuge-seekers from Laos and Vietnam also found their way to the Thai-Cambodian border. Overwhelmed by their numbers, the government of Thailand stopped giving the new arrivals the same presumptive refugee status that members of the earlier groups had received.
At the height of the influx, there were half a million refuge-seekers on Thai soil—a number equal to about 1 percent of the total population of Thailand. Thailand had not signed the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees that mandated how refugees should be treated, so Thai officials could act autonomously. The Thai government relied on two of its own laws—the Regulation Concerning Displaced Persons from Neighboring Countries passed when thousands of Vietnamese were crossing the border into Thailand to escape the ravages of the First Indochina War in the early s and the Immigration Act—to deal with the massive influx.
In an international conference held in Geneva and attended by participants from sixty-five countries discussed how the dire refugee-outflow situation in Southeast Asia could be dealt with.
After one effort to deport forty thousand Cambodians, during which a vast majority died from land mine explosions—an incident that caused an international outcry—the Thai government stopped sending people back into Cambodia. But a coup soon ousted him and the new prime minister closed the border again after it had been open for only three months. The Thai attitude toward Cambodians was considerably harsher than that toward refuge-seekers from Laos and Vietnam. Before , Lao, Hmong, and other groups from Laos, as well as Vietnamese, were placed into camps set up by UNHCR where they were interviewed and eventually resettled.
In contrast, Thailand feared that if it treated Cambodian refuge-seekers in a similar fashion, millions of them might make their way into Thailand to escape the Cambodian civil war. Thailand had always considered Cambodia as a buffer state that hindered Vietnamese attempts to encroach upon Thai territory.
Asian Refugees in America
For that reason, Thai leaders tolerated the presence of the Khmer Rouge, as well as the two non-Communist groups, camped along the Thai-Cambodian border because they, too, served as a buffer to keep the Vietnamese army then occupying Cambodia at bay. People placed into refugee camps could be interviewed for potential resettlement but those in border camps could not as the Thai government did not allow UNHCR to enter the border camps.
Those Cambodians who managed to cross the border during the three months when it was open were housed initially in a makeshift camp named Sakeo that consisted only of blue plastic tarps hung from poles. These structures with no walls were erected overnight in a rice paddy with poor drainage. When it rained, the ground turned to thick mud. Germs bred in the open pit toilets and many people died from disease and exposure to the elements.
This horrendous situation was broadcast around the world when Mrs. Most of the people who found their way into Khao I Dang including sizeable numbers who managed to enter the premises in the dark of night after international aid workers had left for the day were eventually admitted into the United States.
Asian Refugees in America: Narratives of Escape and Adaptation - Eleanor Herz Swent - Google книги
To this day, however, many Cambodians still harbor negative feelings toward Thailand for the harsh existence they endured in the camps. Partly in response to the international emergency caused by the seemingly unceasing outflow of refuge-seekers, Congress passed the Refugee Act. But it was difficult to determine exactly who among the residents of Khao I Dang qualified as bona fide refugees because the only persons who might suffer persecution if they were sent back to a Cambodia ruled by the Vietnamese-supported government were the Khmer Rouge.
Despite that fact, some Khmer Rouge members did end up in the United States as refugee advocacy groups pressured U. Cambodian refugee program ended in Between and , a total of , Cambodians were admitted into the United States—, as refugees, 6, as immigrants who had family members in the United States to sponsor them, and 2, as humanitarian and public interest parolees who did not qualify for refugee status but who were deemed deserving of admission nevertheless.
American-born children and youth of Cambodian ancestry are the fastest growing segment of the ethnic Cambodian population in the United States today. After passage of the Refugee Act, a newly established Office for Refugee Resettlement ORR with branches in every state took responsibility for overseeing refugee resettlement. Resettlement officials aimed to disperse the refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia widely in order to minimize the financial, educational, and social-services burdens on any single locality.
Many factors determined where the refugees would end up. Among the most important, in the eyes of ORR, were, first, the location of existing voluntary service agencies that ORR could contract to carry out the work of finding sponsors—be they individuals, families, church groups, or local organizations—who were willing and able to either house them temporarily or help find housing for them, give them money to buy food, help them find jobs, sign them up at community service agencies and in state welfare programs, enroll their children in schools, enroll adults in English-as-a-Second-Language programs or vocational training courses, and get them health care.
Second, ORR tried to find out whether the refugees had relatives or friends already in the country who could help them adapt to life in an industrial, modern society, in which many aspects of life were unfamiliar to rural people who had been farmers, fishermen, or non-industrial workers. Third, ORR looked for cities that had plentiful cheap housing. Fourth, resettlement officials searched for localities that had entry-level jobs that did not require an ability to understand and speak English.
The refugees themselves had a different set of concerns. They wanted to rejoin family and friends, if any were in the United States; live in a locality with a Buddhist temple; settle down in places with a warm climate as they were used to living in the tropics; and live in states where they thought they would have a good chance of finding the means to support themselves economically through gainful employment, or qualifying for public assistance, or a combination of the two.
Historically there had been no immigration from Cambodia into the United States, so there were no existing Cambodian ethnic communities when the first wave of refugees arrived. When Prince Sihanouk broke off diplomatic relations with the United States, those programs ended. However, several dozen students either remained in California or went home but later came back to the United States on their own.
When the first group of Cambodian refugees arrived at the U. Marine Corps Base in Camp Pendleton in southern California, the former students went to visit their compatriots, brought them Cambodian food, and eventually sponsored many of them who then settled in Long Beach. They transformed the Cambodian Students Association they had founded earlier into the Cambodian Association of America—the first Cambodian mutual aid association organized and incorporated in the United States.
This organization, along with other mutual aid community associations established later, played crucial roles in helping the refugees in multiple ways. A second city in which Cambodian refugees congregated in large numbers was Lowell, an old textile-mill town in Massachusetts. That unanticipated development also came about by chance.
A protestant minister, Peter Pond, had worked among Cambodian refugees in Thailand. He sought and obtained the assistance of Mrs. Kitty Dukakis, the wife of then-governor Michael Dukakis. She persuaded her husband to get various state government agencies involved in resettling refugees in Massachusetts. Two other fortuitous developments that led to the growth of an ethnic Cambodian community in Lowell were the presence of several electronics assembly plants in Lowell and the arrival of a senior Buddhist monk in the area. In An Wang, a Chinese American information technology entrepreneur, had relocated the headquarters of Wang Laboratories to Lowell.
Raytheon and Digital Equipment, two other large electronics manufacturers, had also set up assembly plants in Lowell. These companies began to hire Cambodians and other Southeast Asian refugees because electronics assembly work does not require a good knowledge of English. Instead, workers have to be patient, careful, and precise.
Unfortunately, Wang Laboratories encountered problems and had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in , laying off the bulk of its employees. But by that time Cambodian in-migration had developed a momentum of its own.