When Dao Thi Hoa, 26, arrived in Hong Kong on a rickety fishing boat in 1989 she never imagined she would still be here eight years later. Hoa is one of 1,356 Vietnamese refugees left in the territory, with 4,527 non-refugees also here. She lives in a small prefabricated hut with her two and a half-year-old son Cuong. Tomorrow, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata will visit Hoa's home at Pillar Point camp on her first trip to the territory. But the big question is why Mrs Ogata is coming now, when there are so many more pressing refugee problems around the world. China has said all Vietnamese must be out by the handover which leaves Mrs Ogata two tasks: persuading third countries to take the remaining refugees and persuading Vietnam to clear non-refugees for return. Refugee workers do not rule out the possibility China may have pulled strings in a bid to get Mrs Ogata to sort out the problem before June 30. But the UNHCR maintains her visit is to review progress, raise awareness abroad about the remaining refugees, and 'to say thank you to Hong Kong'. More than 200,000 Vietnamese have washed up on the territory's shores in the last 22 years. The bill has so far come to $8.1 billion, on top of which Hong Kong has loaned the UNHCR a further $1.4 billion. To date, the UNHCR has resettled 143,232 refugees in third countries and voluntarily repatriated 55,092 non-refugees to Vietnam. The Government has forcibly deported another 9,700. But the number of refugees heading abroad for a new life dwindled to 298 last year and only five left in January. Like Hoa, many of those still languishing in the territory have drug problems or a criminal conviction in the family which makes third countries loath to take them. Progress on non-refugees has been a lot more encouraging recently. After a disastrous 1995, about 15,000 boat people were voluntarily or forcibly returned last year. There may be only 4,527 left, but as outgoing Refugee Co-ordinator Brian Bresnihan said last week, it is not simply a game of numbers. Hanoi insists on carrying out detailed background checks on all Vietnamese before it will accept them. Those who cannot be matched to local records or who are deemed non-nationals are rejected. The problem is complicated by 260,000 ethnic Chinese Vietnamese now living on the mainland who fled after hostilities erupted between the two countries in 1978. Hanoi fears if it accepts ethnic Chinese from Hong Kong, Beijing will want to send back its former Vietnamese residents. Governor Chris Patten hopes Mrs Ogata's visit will persuade Vietnam to be more helpful in clearing names for return. But he has also called on Beijing to 'make it absolutely clear' to Vietnam that they will not see the repatriation of ethnic Chinese Vietnamese from Hong Kong as a precedent. So far, Vietnam has rejected 282 people outright. Another 238 non-refugees have been released from detention because their cases have been pending so long. Refugee lawyer Pam Baker, who meets Mrs Ogata today, will press the High Commissioner on the question of the 1,000 people she believes will ultimately be left stateless. 'Something has to be done before 11.59pm on June 30,' she said. 'She should be saying these guys need to be identified now and resettled - they are the responsibility of the UNHCR.' Ms Baker admitted she was puzzled by the timing of Mrs Ogata's visit, but added: 'I would think she's looking at saying to the international community, 'there are very few refugees left here, make an effort and resettle them before June 30'. 'If you look at the numbers they are very small and perfectly manageable with a bit of political will.' Mrs Ogata, 69, who has been home to Japan for her daughter's wedding, begins her visit with a tour of Pillar Point, home to about 700 refugees. She will meet the Governor, Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa and foreign consuls in a bid to encourage more countries to take the remaining refugees. UNHCR spokesman Preeta Law said: 'Our hope is her visit will draw the attention of the international community once again to the remaining Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong. 'I don't think people have forgotten, but there have been so many other refugee crises they have drawn away attention,' she said. UNHCR field worker Paul Meredith is optimistic. He believes the handover has refocused attention on the Vietnamese still here. 'Right now we've gone from being very discouraged to being rather encouraged,' he said. 'In early 1997 we started getting indications - a green light you might say - to submit cases even though the families have no overseas links. 'We are very busy presenting the best cases and I'm hopeful the High Commissioner's visit will create a lot of goodwill.' In the best-case scenario up to 300 refugees could find new homes in Britain, the United States and Australia. But that still leaves 1,000. Among those desperate for a fresh start is Hoa. Like many women her chances of resettlement were repeatedly scuppered by her husband's drug addiction. The couple have now divorced. Hoa never dreamt she would end up in a camp when she left her home town of Quang Ninh in northern Vietnam with her sister. 'We thought we would be going to another country for a new life,' she said. 'I hope Mrs Ogata can help people in the camps get resettled - there are a lot of people still here. 'They worry about their future and it is not a good place for children,' Hoa said. 'My dream is to go to Australia and to provide a good education for my son so he has a chance in life - that's the most important thing.'