SAIGON (1954-1960)/ 6. Phase I: Temporary settlement
The first phase of resettlement happened during the period of the operation of Article 14(d) of the Geneva Agreement. Most of the immigrants evacuated through Hanoi and Haiphong were resided in 42 tram tiep-cu (reception stations) proximate to the points of disembarkation in Saigon, Cho Lin and Vung Tau (Hansen, 2008). Their living conditions were described by Hansen (2008):
Most were kept under canvas or in existing public facilities such as schools, army barracks, churches, parks, and other open grounds; for example, in land adjoining the Tan Son Nhut airport, and the Phu Tho racecourse.
The initial condition of the reception stations received positive comments. The camp at Go Vap (nearby Tan Son Nhut airport) had several large huts for shelter, a dispensary and drainage ditches, and was said to be able to accommodate about 11,000 inhabitants under expansion (Frankum, 2007). It was also noted by Frankum (2007) that “when … a relief and rehabilitation specialist visited the camp … he noted its remarkable cleanliness.”
Such resettlement were intended to be temporary stops for moving further to permanent relocation sites where residents could build their own houses and sought long-term employment. The image above shows that the Phu Tho resettlement camp was filled with “pup tents provided by the French military” (Elkind, 2016). Frankum (2007) stated that the Hippodrome (Phu Tho racecourse) was intended to be a one-night transit camp for refugees as they arrived in Saigon. Though under request of changing into an official camp, the Phu Tho camp was not able to become a permanent resettlement zone due to the request of the land owner for the return of the premises for their original purposes (Hansen, 2008). As a result, proper residential infrastructure was never built on the land, leading to the risk of disease and fire. In August 1954, proper sanitary measures, adequate water wells and first aid tents were still lacking. The sanitary condition was largely improved under the help of USOM and other international organisations.
The temporary settlement camps soon became overpopulated as the flow of refugees into Saigon increased. Many immigrants looked for permanent settlements during 1955-1960, while some remained in the reception centres for almost the entire time (Goodman & Franks, 1974). As soon as the 300-day period ends, most of the reception camps were closed down and replaced by the permanent settlements further away from the city centre of Saigon (Ngia, 2011). Interestingly, the regions surrounding the reception camps often became a new cluster of residents, forming suburbs such as Gia Dinh and Go Vap. From the map of 1960, settlements were organically built in Go Vap. There were already no trace of the original planned settlements of the reception centre of 1954. Located out of the city boundary, Go Vap transformed from a planned reception centre into an unorganised suburb.
- Elkind, Jessica. “The Virgin Mary is Going South: Refugee Resettlement in South Vietnam.” Aid Under Fire: Nation Building and the Vietnam War. University Press of Kentucky, 2016, pp. 37.
- Frankum, Ronald B. Operation Passage to Freedom: The United States Navy in Vietnam, 1954-1955. Texas Tech University Press, 2007, pp. 99-103.
- Hansen, Peter. The Virgin Heads South: Northern Catholic Refugees in South Vietnam, 1954-64. Thesis. University of Divinity, 2008, pp. 144-146. Web. 4 Dec. 2016.
- Goodman, Allen, and Franks, Lawrence. Between War and Peace: A Profile of Migrants to Saigon. The Asia Society-SEADAG, 1974, pp. 4.
- Ngia, M. Vo. Saigon: A History. McFarland, 2011, pp. 131.