Funds needed for stronger fences and huts

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 May, 1996, 12:00am

Stronger fencing is being considered in an overhaul of detention camp structures after rioters pushed down parts of the 10-metre-high perimeter fence at Whitehead.

Replacing the administration block of 10 huts alone would cost about $10 million based on 1989 prices of $1 million a building. Thirty huts, made of corrugated steel sheets, were damaged.

Correctional Services Department spokesman Lionel Rodrigues said the riot would propel the authorities to arrange funding quickly to make the camp safe.

'Getting money from the Government and Legco is a long process. We need resources, we need fencing to make sure these places are secure. We will have to review the entire building system again and see what we can improve,' he said.

But he pointed out that there was a limit to what could be done.

'We saw how through sheer numbers of people they were able to knock down whole sections of the fence,' he said. 'What can we do to prevent that? We will have to think of ways.' Architectural Services Department senior property services manager John Morris, who will oversee the rebuilding, said stronger fencing had been fitted following recommendations by monitors after a riot at Whitehead in May last year.

Metal plates had been welded to parts of the fence after previous attempts had been made to cut through it.

A team of four inspected the damage late yesterday and was awaiting instructions from the CSD or Security Branch on what was required, he said.

'Electricity and water supplies will have to be assessed as well,' he said.

At least the administration block would have to be rebuilt from scratch and the rest would be assessed for possible repair, said Mr Rodrigues.

Mr Morris said containers had been used in the past and could be installed in days. But Mr Rodrigues ruled out their use as 'inhumane'.

In the past, migrants have pushed containers against fences to climb out.

Sections 3, 4 and 5 all contained damaged huts. But sections 2, 7 and 8 of the camp were empty, so the 6,300 Vietnamese left after the transfer of Section 3 members last night could be moved within the camp.