The presence of Vietnamese in Birmingham dates from the aftermath of the
Vietnam War. By the late 1990s, people of Vietnamese origin were
estimated at about 3,000, settling mainly in the Handsworth, Soho,
Aston, Sandwell and Ladywood wards of the city.
Americans left Saigon in 1975, after failing to defeat the communist and
nationalist opposition, many refugees fled Vietnam and thousands went to
the USA. Others went to France, which had ruled Vietnam as a colony
until forced to concede independence in 1954. Only a few hundred settled
in the UK. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Communist Vietnam experienced
instability and economic hardship. Refugees leaving the country
increased because of the persecution of ethnic Chinese and attacks on
the business classes. Hundreds of thousands of ‘boat people’ left
Vietnam and settled in overcrowded refugee camps in Hong Kong. In
response to a major human crisis, the Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher
agreed to take quotas of refugees and 12,000 came to Britain in the
In Birmingham, resettlement took place largely through
charities such as the Ockenden Venture and the Midlands Vietnamese
Community Association. The Catholic Church, particularly through the
efforts of Father Peter Dao Duc Diem acted as a magnet for many
Vietnamese. Not all Vietnamese were Catholics, others were Buddhists or
belonged to other religious traditions. The Vietnamese arrived as a
result of traumatic experiences. Almost all arrivals were young and they
were unable to bring any resources with them. Ill and elderly family
members generally failed to survive their experience as ‘boat people’ or
inside refugee camps. The lack of an established Vietnamese community in
Britain created settlement problems and integration proved to be more
difficult than in France or the USA where there was a greater degree of
support, recognition and training. Learning English proved difficult.
There can be few more diverse languages than English and Vietnamese.
refugees in the 1980s arrived during a recession in the local economy
and overseas qualifications were frequently not recognised. Obtaining
employment was difficult, but the situation has improved. Since the
1980s growing numbers of Vietnamese have qualified professionally or
graduated in computing and electronics.
To find out what Birmingham Libraries has in
stock about Vietnam, please use the online library
Simply type Vietnam or Vietnamese
in the Keyword
If you are going to
travel to a library to get a book or CD, please phone first to make sure
that it's on the shelf.