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Panel Urges Looser Restrictions on Indochinese Hoping to Enter U.S.

April 18, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A State Department panel, fearing a return to the days when Asian boat people were ″pushed back into the sea,″ urged the Reagan administration today to loosen restrictions on Indochinese refugees trying to enter the United States.

Specifically, the United States should resume admitting some refugees who have no family ties in America or other special qualifications for entry, the commission said. The administration stopped processing such applicants in April 1982.

The panel did not say how, numerically, the flow of refugees to the United States would change if the recommendations were implemented. Since 1975, about 800,000 Indochinese refugees have settled in this country.

The group said major efforts should be mounted to help the government of Thailand and other countries in which granting ″first asylum″ to Vietnamese, Laotian and Khmer refugees is causing internal conflict.

″The threats to first asylum are again increasing and require concerted international efforts to prevent a return to the earlier situation in the region when refugee boats were pushed back into the sea and the Lao and Khmer refugees were forcibly repatriated,″ the Indochinese Refugee Panel said in a 96-page report.

The panel, composed mostly of former government officials, was commissioned by Secretary of State George Shultz last year to review the critical and complex problems stemming from the continued flight of refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

About 40,000 people, not counting those made homeless by the fighting between rebels and the Vietnam-dominated Cambodian government, flee each year. There currently are about 154,000 refugees in Asian camps, causing major political problems for the host countries, notably Thailand.

Among the most difficult problems is what to do with those who have become virtually permanent residents of camps, especially those barred from coming to the United States because they have no family members here.

″The Southeast Asian states continue to seek assurances that they will not be left with an Indochinese population to resettle locally,″ the panel said.

While the problem is an international one, the report said, it urged the United States to:

-Resume processing cases of special concern among the refugees without ties to the United States, since this is the category of refugees that is growing the fastest. It should be done in a limited way, however, or it ″could influence more people to leave″ their homelands.

-Take the lead with other countries in a ″sharing-out″ of the remaining refugee populations.

-Start processing more of the newcomers as immigrants rather than refugees.

-Mount a concerted campaign to hold Vietnam to promises to permit re- education camp inmates to come to the United States and to improve arrangements for the departure of Amerasians - mostly the offspring of Americans stationed in the country during the war.

-Support efforts to combat pirates who prey on refugees fleeing by boat.

Former Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray, who has represented the United States at international refugee conferences, is chairman of the panel. The other members are Gale McGee, a former Wyoming senator; Jonathan Moore, a former high- ranking State Department Asian expert; Irena Kirkland, a member of the Board of the International Rescue Committee; and Edward C. Schmults, a former deputy attorney general.

The panel noted that the United States has resettled more refugees than any other country since 1975 and that immigration causes economic and social problems for the country.

Nevertheless, the report said, ″despite domestic budget constraints, the United States should provide its fair share of refugee relief and resettlement support.″

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