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1975: 'Operation Babylift' lands in UK

VIDEO : Vietnamese orphans arrive at Heathrow

A plane carrying 99 Vietnamese orphans has landed at Heathrow airport.

The Boeing 747 was chartered by the British Daily Mail newspaper whose editor, David English, was inspired by the American Operation Babylift.

The children, many of them only a few months old, were accompanied by British doctors and nurses on the 18-hour flight from Saigon.

At least 30 of the infants were suffering from pneumonia and six had to be taken to hospital after arriving at Heathrow.

Most of the children had been in orphanages run by a charity, Ockenden Venture, in Saigon.

The care of the children in the UK is being co-ordinated by the British Council for Aid for Refugees.

The organisation has received calls from all over Britain from people wishing to adopt a child.

'Publicity stunt'

But its general secretary, Morley Fletcher, sounded a note of caution.

"There are bound to be legal problems such as making sure they are genuine orphans," she said.

It might also be in the best interests of some children to return to Saigon if the situation stabilised, she added.

The Daily Mail operation has been widely condemned as a publicity stunt.

Leading aid agencies, such as the Red Cross, have said inadequate provision has been made to care for the children here and help should have been given to them in their homeland.

Two of the children on the Daily Mail flight were survivors of the American airlift crash near Saigon last week.

One hundred and fifty orphans and 28 adults died when a US air force transport plane made an emergency landing after a door blew out.

They were among 2,000 orphans being taken to the US as American troops prepare to pull out of South Vietnam.

President Ford said he feared the victorious communist Vietcong would have no mercy for abandoned infants, especially those fathered by American soldiers.

Australia and Canada have also organised the evacuation of Vietnamese orphans.

In Context
None of the 100 children who came to Britain ever returned to Vietnam.

Three died in hospital soon after their arrival.

Fifty one were eventually adopted.

The others, including some disabled children, were put into homes run by the Ockenden Venture and the British Vietnamese Orphans project.

By contrast, nearly all of the 2,204 children airlifted to the US were adopted within a few months.


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