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What does a decommissioned boat have to do with Vietnamese refugees? Early in 1982 the West German ship Anamur will end its service as a rescue ship for Vietnamese boat people. It went to Southeast Asia as a private humanitarian undertaking in August 1979 and has picked up some 9,000 refugees since then.

But the West German federal government has no territory of its own (such as the District of Columbia) to administer. It has always depended on the willingness of its individual states to take the settlers. Now, after accepting some 26,000 Vietnamese immigrants, the states are saying no.

Bonn has declared itself morally obligated to accept as immigrants any refugees picked up by ships flying its flag. It once specified that this principle applied not only to ships who chance upon boats in distress, but also the Anamur, which seeks out boat people.

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