Camps to empty by early 1996

HONGKONG'S Vietnamese camps will be cleared by early 1996 if the current pace of repatriation of boat people continues, the Government's Refugee Co-ordinator said yesterday.

Mr Brian Bresnihan's prediction offered the firmest repatriation schedule so far, and was far less optimistic than earlier speculation by the Government.

In October 1991, as Britain and Vietnam signed the agreement that cleared the way for the forced return of Vietnamese who were not deemed to be political refugees, the Secretary for Security, Mr Alistair Asprey, predicted that the detention centres wouldbe emptied within three years.

But yesterday, Mr Bresnihan said: ''If the track record established in 1992 is maintained, we would expect to be in a position to close all our camps in Hongkong in early 1996.'' His comments came minutes after another 60 Vietnamese were loaded on to a plane to Hanoi yesterday morning as part of the mandatory return programme.

Two of the Vietnamese, a man and his wife, struggled and had to be carried by Correctional Services Department officers on to the chartered Hercules C130.

The Vietnamese, all from North Vietnam and including 25 men, 14 women, 10 boys and 11 girls, were loaded on to the plane in about 20 minutes.

The youngest was 15 months old and had been born in Hongkong.

All had been screened out as non-refugee economic migrants.

Ten of those returning were criminals who had served prison terms here.

Mr Bresnihan said he anticipated that there would be three voluntary repatriation flights in March and four or five voluntary repatriation flights a month thereafter.

The next mandatory repatriation flight would be in April, Mr Bresnihan said.