UN officials combined offers of a new cash bonus with a counselling campaign yesterday to convince boat people to volunteer for repatriation. Of the 1,500 people in the north section of the High Island camp, about 950 were told by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff that they had been cleared for deportation but should take a new special repatriation allowance for volunteers of US$150 (HK$1,158). The UNHCR chief of mission Jahanshah Assadi said US$150 would be paid in addition to a pre-departure allowance of US$50 and the US$240 given to people after they returned. 'We needed to distinguish between the voluntary and [forced] programmes and we could really only do that by giving a cash incentive,' Mr Assadi said. The High Island (north camp) people have been told they have until Tuesday to volunteer for repatriation or face being sent back. Mr Assadi said his team of about 20 counsellors, which had been brought in from other camps and the Hong Kong office, would work every day talking to detainees. Previously they had advised people only three or four days before a deportation flight that they were on the passenger list. 'Before, our counselling was anonymous but now we are targeting the people who need it most . . . those who are cleared for return' under the forced repatriation programme. A similar US$150 allowance was offered from August to December last year by the British Government through the UNHCR but very few people took up the offer. Mr Assadi said it was his understanding this time the offer was being made because of the increase in deportation flights. 'As of the middle of this year, we need to hit 1,800 a month in terms of the number being repatriated, so whatever we have by way of voluntary repatriation will have to be supplemented by the Government's [forced programme].' The 37 people who returned voluntarily on Wednesday were the first to receive the new allowance. The Security Branch, which produces all policy relating to the Vietnamese programme was unable to provide any comment on the new scheme yesterday. Refugee Concern lawyer Pam Baker was worried detainees would view the offer of more money as an insult. UNHCR trouble-shooter Sergio Vierra de Mello, one-time head of UN Civil Affairs in the former Yugoslavia, arrives on April 30 to plan the resettlement of the 22,000 boat people in Hong Kong by early next year.