Fence to remain around Viet camp

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 January, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 January, 1998, 12:00am

Authorities have rejected a UN plea to pull down the fence topped with barbed wire ringing the Pillar Point camp, even though the Vietnamese are free to walk out any time.

The call to remove the three-metre high perimeter barrier was revealed by Jean-Noel Wetterwald, chief of mission for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

With only 2,000 Vietnamese boat people remaining, the UNHCR's work in the SAR is nearly at an end. It was first established here in 1952 to assist White Russians fleeing China.

'In keeping with the Government's wish we will try to work hard to find durable solutions for those remaining,' Mr Wetterwald said.

The UNHCR's immediate task was to help the 1,670 Pillar Point residents become more self-reliant, he said.

Its future would depend on Government wishes.

Refugee workers and UN officials wanted to remove the fence to encourage integration of the asylum seekers who have lived behind the barbed wire for more than 10 years - in some cases, for all their lives.

'We don't think it has to remain. The Government has expressed a wish to keep the fence. If the Government feels more comfortable with the fence, that's fine,' said Mr Wetterwald.

Security guards are also employed at the gates of the camp.

Refugee lawyer Peter Barnes said the fence and security were effective in keeping out undesirables who preyed on drug-addicted refugees.

Nevertheless, Mr Barnes said that it would be better to remove the barrier to reflect the residents' freedom.

The Security Bureau failed to respond to questions about the fence.