Police launches to clear Viets from Tai A Chau
About 6,000 Vietnamese boat people will be loaded into the holds of police launches and ferried to the HMS Tamar pier as part of a massive transfer operation being planned by police.
The option to use police support launches was chosen over hiring open-air ferries because of security concerns expressed by officers.
About 5,500 people in Tai A Chau will be moved out in September when the Government closes the remote island camp which has been home to a southern Vietnamese population for about six years.
Most will be moved into the Whitehead detention centre and a handful will go to High Island - transfers that have angered local residents. The South China Morning Post can confirm plans have begun for the removal, to be conducted by police officers.
Sources said the boat people would be put below the decks of the launches. It is understood about 50 to 60 people will be taken per vessel.
'The police will essentially relay the people out from Tai A Chau to Tamar where they will be off-loaded,' a source said.
'Putting them in the launches is the safest way to do it because they can't jump overboard or cause any real problems.' From HMS Tamar, the naval installation on Stonecutters Island, the Vietnamese will be driven to Whitehead and High Island.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) field officers have been conducting daily counselling sessions at Tai A Chau encouraging detainees to volunteer for repatriation.
However, there has been little response and people are not expected to make a decision until closer to the September operation.
'We are not sure whether people will try and leave before the transfer or wait and see what Whitehead is like first,' a UNHCR spokesman said.
A concern group near the Whitehead camp, led by Sha Tin District Board members, have opposed moving more people into the camp.
They point to frequent escapes, and raids on the camp by security forces which have involved the use of tear gas.