Boat people fearful of life on the outside

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2000, 12:00am

Remaining inmates in the territory's last camp for Vietnamese refugees are living in uncertainty as they ponder where to live and what to do when it closes in May.

Closure of the Pillar Point camp will end the 25-year dilemma of boat people in Hong Kong as the Government offers identity cards to the remaining refugees.

While 794 of the 1,408 eligible inmates had applied for Hong Kong identity cards by Wednesday, others said they were hesitant because they did not know if they could afford to live in Hong Kong.

Mother of two, Nguyen Thi Hang, 32, who has been living in the Tuen Mun camp for more than 10 years, said: 'I have not applied for the identity card as I have not been able to find a house yet.

'We're not prepared for it. The Government suddenly asked us to leave. We don't know where to find another home.' Her neighbour, who gave her name only as Mrs Phan, 30, who met her husband and gave birth to her four children at the camp, shared similar fears.

'My husband works at construction sites. But his income is very unstable. Sometimes he only has work a few days a month.' Tran Manh Hung, 39, said he did not know where to house his family of four after the camp was closed.

He said it was difficult for him to find a job as he could not write in Chinese.

Brenda Ku Wing-chee, from Caritas-Hong Kong, the company that manages the camp, said housing was the greatest concern for the inmates.

Ms Ku said they were trying to teach the inmates, who have been living at the camp for free, how to save money.

She said some were reluctant about applying for identity cards because they still hoped to emigrate.

She also said they would try to determine the outcome of 100 inmates who had applied for family reunions overseas before April 5, when the deadline for the application for identity cards ends.

Ms Ku said they had been helping the inmates integrate into society as many had become institutionalised.

'They have problems like throwing rubbish on the ground as they know someone will clean it up later,' she said.