Battle to stop Viets' detention

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 April, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 April, 1995, 12:00am

LAWYERS will work through the weekend to beat an order for the re-detention of three Vietnamese families who have been rendered stateless and now plan an appeal to the Privy Council in London.

The lawyers say the Government deliberately issued an order for re-detention late yesterday before an application for judicial review could be heard by a duty judge.

The Director of Immigration has ordered that the 13 people affected by his order be delivered to the Tai A Chau detention centre on Monday morning.

The Appeal Court last week overturned a High Court ruling in January that the families were being detained unlawfully because Vietnam would not take them back. Since their release the adults have secured jobs and the children have attended lessons at the Pillar Point camp where they live.

Lawyers Pam Baker and Rob Brook wrote to the Immigration Department and the Attorney-General yesterday seeking a delay of one day to allow them to seek leave for a judicial review on Monday and have it heard by the end of next week.

Mr Brook said the Government was told on Tuesday that if the group was to be re-detained they would like to seek a judicial review of the decision to re-detain, which would include an injunction to prevent the arrest of the group until the application had been heard.

'Now it appears that the Government has deliberately tried to prevent us doing this. We were up front and honest about our intentions and the Government has used our honesty against these people. We strenuously object to their actions,' Mr Brook said.

Legal aid was granted yesterday to apply to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal to the Privy Council.

The group was released in January on the basis that because Vietnam considered them to be non-nationals, they would not be accepted for repatriation under Hanoi's policy.

They have been denied refugee status and even though they have Taiwanese identity documents dating back to the 1970s, Taiwan will not accept them.

In his letter advising of the decision to re-detain, the Director of Immigration said he took into account that the three families were in no different a position to that of the remaining 21,600 Vietnamese being held in detention.

The letter acknowledges that the Privy Council 'may overturn the ruling on appeal and restore the three respondents to liberty'.

However, it says that it would be a 'considerable period, even with utmost expedition, before the Privy Council will decide the case'.

'Any perception that persons screened out and awaiting removal need not volunteer for repatriation to Vietnam or that legal loopholes will allow detainees to live and work in Hong Kong . . . must be dispelled,' the director said.