Security forces to swoop on High Island
By SCOTT McKENZIE
SECURITY forces were to move into the High Island detention centre this morning to remove 38 Vietnamese scheduled for deportation.
A government spokesman said that following an announcement on Monday of the deportation flight, 43 Vietnamese volunteered for transfer to Victoria Prison for the flight.
But the others refused, and 30 of them, including two children, climbed on to the roofs of huts at High Island yesterday.
'We had hoped that all would come forward voluntarily. We now see little prospect of that happening and with a deterioration of law and order in the camp, we have accordingly decided to mount an operation,' the spokesman said last night.
The transfer operation will be monitored by representatives of non-government organisations Oxfam and Christian Action, and non-official Justices of the Peace. The forced repatriation flight will take place next Wednesday.
The announcement of the removal of the boat people from High Island came as legislators said they would ask the Security Branch to guarantee not to deport any more Vietnamese making claims against the Government.
Legal services panel chairman Simon Ip Sik-on confirmed yesterday he and security panel chairman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee would make the request this week in a letter to the Secretary for Security, Peter Lai Hing-ling.
Both panels meet on June 1 to look into the problem - identified on May 1 by the South China Morning Post - of the lengthy delays faced by almost 400 Vietnamese boat people seeking legal aid.
All were victims of a bungled raid on the Whitehead Detention Centre on April 7, last year in which more than 500 canisters of tear-gas were used to remove 1,500 Vietnamese being transferred to High Island. Some were injured and many more claimed to have lost belongings in the operation.
Their claims to the Legal Aid Department for assistance in their actions to seek compensation based on Government liability have still to be processed.
Only one woman, who was left crippled after the raid, has been awarded legal aid. None of the remaining 387 people has been advised of the progress of their claims and many have been deported.
The inquiry would seek to find out why the Government had deported people from this group rather than the thousands of others who had been approved for return by Hanoi.
It will also move to identify reasons for the delays in processing the applications.
'We will send a letter asking that no more of these people be deported until we have looked into the matter . . . there are many others who have been confirmed for return who can be deported just as easily,' Mr Ip said.