Language classes for boat people

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 March, 2000, 12:00am

Vietnamese boat people are to receive Chinese language classes at Pillar Point camp in Tuen Mun to help them integrate with the community.

The camp's manager, Caritas-Hong Kong, said the classes, which start next week, were part of services to help prepare the Vietnamese to manage after the last refugee centre is closed in May.

The move follows the Government's decision to offer identity cards to the 973 Vietnamese refugees and 435 migrants last week to end the 25-year-old boat people dilemma.

Brenda Ku Wing-chee, supervisor of Caritas' refugee services, said that while most of the 700 adult Vietnamese who lived in the open camp spoke Cantonese, only about 20 per cent of them could read and write Chinese characters.

She said the classes were specifically for adults as the children, who attend local schools, did not have any problem.

'The classes will teach them simple words to meet the basic needs, like numbers in Chinese characters, names of food on menus and words like 'danger',' said Ms Ku.

She said they had conducted similar classes about three times in the past but received a lukewarm response.

'Only a few people turned up every time. It may be because they did not see the need of it in the past. But we believe the response this time will be better as some of them have requested such classes themselves.' The Labour Department would conduct talks at the camp while Ms Ku said people would be encouraged to find jobs and cultivate a savings habit to pay rent.

By Monday, 73 Vietnamese migrants and 87 refugees had applied to become Hong Kong residents. The remaining eligible boat people have about five more weeks to take up the offer.