Top appeal court to decide fate of Chinese-Vietnamese

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 January, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 January, 1998, 12:00am

The Court of Final Appeal will decide the fate of more than 270 boat people whom a judge has been ruled to have wrongly freed.

The Court of Appeal yesterday granted the migrants' request to take their battle all the way to the top court.

The ethnic Chinese were released from High Island Detention Centre on November 9 after Mr Justice Brian Keith ruled they were being held illegally.

But Mr Justice Barry Mortimer, Mr Justice Gerald Godfrey and Mr Justice Anthony Rogers overturned the decision last month. The same three ruled yesterday that the case warranted a hearing before the Court of Final Appeal.

Barrister Gladys Li SC, for the boat people, will argue that Mr Justice Keith was right to free them on the grounds that illegal refusal by the Government to screen them for refugee status had kept them locked up for years.

The 119 Chinese-Vietnamese families will continue to live in an open camp pending the final court decision.

Last year, the Privy Council ruled that they had been wrongly refused screening. They have since been screened and awarded refugee status.

However, the migrants have been ordered to resettle in China and are also fighting that removal order.

They fled Vietnam during the Sino-Vietnamese war and first spent time on the mainland. The Government claims they are not legitimate refugees because they had already found a home in China.