Hanoi urged to take deportees

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 1994, 12:00am

URGENT talks have been sought with Vietnam over its unprecedented refusal to accept back 14 asylum-seekers from Hong Kong who were scheduled to leave on a deportation flight to Hanoi yesterday.

The British Embassy in Hanoi will take up the issue with Vietnamese Foreign Ministry officials as soon as possible at the urging of the Hong Kong Government.

Deputy Secretary for Security Ken Woodhouse said the issue would chiefly be dealt with in Vietnam and 'on a variety of levels'.

In the meantime, the 14 people from two families would be returned to High Island detention centre.

The two families were to have been part of 82 people being deported on flights yesterday and today under the Orderly Repatriation Programme but were removed from the list after Vietnam objected on Tuesday to them being sent back.

It is understood they had been rejected for voluntary repatriation on previous occasions because they were not ethnic Vietnamese.

A total of 33 people left yesterday on a chartered Hercules aircraft at a cost of $1.35 million to be paid for by the Hong Kong and British governments.

The group included six of the 11 people who were removed from a dormitory roof at the High Island detention centre in a two-day operation this week.

They were four women and the two men who slashed themselves on the rooftop.

Both men, who had been placed in straitjackets for their transfer from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to the airport, were bundled in blankets and carried on to the plane.

Three women were also assisted on but Mr Woodhouse said he was unsure of the reason.

A massive escort of 53 people made up of 44 police officers and support staff such as interpreters accompanied them on the flight - the first Orderly Repatriation Programme flight since March.

A further 33 people are scheduled to depart on a similar flight this morning.

A government spokesman said a total of 228 Vietnamese at High Island had sought medical treatment since the operation at the camp started on Monday. He said 142 of them required treatment.

Six people who were part of a group of 75 who were separated from the main body of the camp population during the operation for putting up resistance remained in isolation last night.

The spokesman said the six had probably been put in a temporary accommodation unit because of concerns that they could cause unrest in the camp.

He was unable to say whether they had injuries.

The Government yesterday refused to give a direct undertaking that people deported this week were not among those with outstanding claims of assault against Correctional Services Department officers arising from the April 7 raid on the Whitehead detention centre.

Meanwhile, British Embassy officials will be seeking to ensure Vietnam's continued acceptance of anyone in Hong Kong camps who is not ethnic Vietnamese.

The embassy refused to comment but the Post understands up to 150 applications from boat people wanting to return are on hold with Vietnam claiming they were never official citizens.