116. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to Secretary of State Vance 1


  • Indochinese Refugees

In light of the opposition encountered in Congress to authorization and appropriations legislation to fund the current refugee program as well as the recent acceleration of escape rates in Indochina, it would not be appropriate for the United States to undertake commitments to additional Indochinese refugees at this time. However, we should proceed with an interim program the key elements of which include:

1. A vigorous effort to continue to develop an international approach to the Indochina refugee problem including:

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—Consultations with and support for the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) in efforts to: broaden the base of fiscal support; increase international settlement opportunities; solicit a more compassionate response to refugee vessels in distress by the maritime community and countries of first asylum; and encourage Thailand to provide resettlement for refugees who remain there.

—Bilateral discussions with other countries to encourage them to accept Indochinese refugees for resettlement.

2. Consultations with the Congress to try to resolve the question of what authority is to be used in admitting additional Indochinese refugees, and to demonstrate that the Administration’s desire to help is part of a broader international effort.

3. An effort to establish more reliable estimates of escape rates for boat cases and others now and over the next several years.

4. An assessment of how soon Indochinese refugees can be considered along with and in the context of all other refugees accepted by the United States.

5. A review of the appropriate level of domestic support to be extended to additional Indochinese refugees.

Recommendations resulting from this further review and consultations should reach the President before January 31, 1978.2

Zbigniew Brzezinski
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues, Mathews Subject File, Box 13, Refugees: Indochina: 11/77. Confidential.
  2. See Document 120.