Raids to send back hundreds of boat people every month

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 March, 1996, 12:00am

Two massive raids have been proposed as part of a plan to deport five plane-loads of Vietnamese boat people every month - a move which is expected to draw violent opposition from within the camps.

The long-promised increase in forced repatriation, to be run in tandem with voluntary departures, will see about 600 people returned to Hanoi each month on charter flights which will cost up to $1 million a trip.

The South China Morning Post has confirmed that 600 of the 1,006 people currently in High Island (north camp) will be removed on April 11 and crammed into the already bulging Victoria Prison for pre-departure processing.

Since deportation flights began in 1991, only about 60 to 100 Vietnamese have been repatriated every month. Six hundred a month has never been tried.

On April 13, security forces will move into Section Two of Whitehead detention centre to transfer at least 1,000 of the 1,600 detainees to High Island as the first step towards repatriation. The last such raid drew violent protests.

'Everyone is expecting big trouble on this one, the people in Section Two are the tough guys,' a senior official said.

For at least 12 months, senior Security Branch officials have expressed hopes of increasing deportations under the Orderly Repatriation Programme.

The Post revealed this week that the voluntary departure of almost 600 boat people from High Island (north) had forced the Government to consider a mass removal operation at the Whitehead camp.

People targeted for deportation have traditionally been removed from High Island (north), which allows safer and easier access for security forces than Whitehead.

The last big raid at Whitehead was in May last year - a two-day operation during which security forces almost lost control and a mass escape was only narrowly averted.

A total of 1,500 people in Section One of Whitehead were targeted in the operation to transfer them to the High Island camp.

Much of the violence involved inmates in neighbouring Section Two - the section to be targeted on April 13.

About 19,000 boat people remain in the territory.

It is also expected that an announcement will be made over the next few days about the release of more boat people on the strength of a Privy Council ruling released on Wednesday which saw 15 people win their freedom and the right to seek resettlement.

For the second day running, the Government refused to respond to the ruling, which could lead to the release of asylum-seekers whom Vietnam refuses to accept.