The Boat People was the name given to Vietnamese
refugees after the fall of Saigon
After the fall, thousands of people began to try and flee Viet Nam for fear of political persecution by the Communists. They tried to escape using small, unseaworthy boats across the Gulf of Thailand or the South China Sea.
From the beginning, most of the Boat People were headed for Southern Thailand, the nearest landfall. They were attacked by both pirates and fisherman who began to regulary rob, rape and kill the refugee's. By the middle of 1977, most of the Boat People were avoiding Thailand and instead headed for Malaysia. This was despite the additional mileage and longer time at sea. Many were either blown off course or had engine trouble. As a result, they ended up either in the Philippines, Brunei and the East Malaysian States.
When tensions in China began to increase in 1978, ethnic Chinese looking to flee the country became the majority of the Boat People. The boats that the Chinese occuppied were larger and could hold between 150 to 600 people.
By 1989, neighboring countries were getting impatient with the on going outflow and threatened to push back new arrivals. In the same year, Vietnam agreed to take back the Boat People. It promised the United Nations that it would not punish these people simply for trying to escape. The UN came up with a "comprehensive plan of action" by which every asylum seeker from Viet Nam would be "screened individually for refugee status and given the right to appeal". Since none of the countries of Asia had accepted the Boat People permanently (except Japan), all those given refugee status would receive resettlement in the West. Any "non refugees" would ultimately be forced to return to Viet Nam. About 112, 000 of the so called non refugees were returned to Vietnam under this program. This pretty much ended the saga of the Vietnamese Boat People.