THE United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has adopted a tough new stand on Vietnamese boat people in a bid to push the 41,486 still in Hongkong to go home voluntarily. The UNHCR has informed key welfare agencies that all services in the camps will be cut back to the absolute minimum. One agency, Community and Family Services International (CFSI), has been told its work will be terminated altogether from August 31. CFSI employs about 30 social workers and psychologists as well as a hundred of the Vietnamese para-professionals in the camps. The UNHCR has also proposed cutting the medical programmes run by Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) and the British Red Cross. MSF has been told to be out by July 1, but this is likely to meet resistance from the Government, which does not want to add the three clinics to the burden already on the Department of Health. The Government would also be reluctant to have to face the Legislative Council with further requests for funds. Apart from CFSI's services, programmes for adult education and other non-essential services, including income generating ones, are to be cut. Others, like the well-baby clinics and pre-school groups are to be scaled back. International Social Services (ISS) runs the bulk of the adult education programme and cuts would affect about 10 expatriates and 200 Vietnamese teachers. The move goes against recommendations made by Mr Justice Kempster when he reviewed the camps following the death of 24 Vietnamese at Sek Kong last year. He recommended an increase in facilities to keep boat people employed and occupied. Yesterday, he said he had no reason to change that. The UNHCR argues that the move is necessary to push people into returning home, particularly as 70 per cent of the population has already been screened out as non-refugees. Similar strong measures are also being adopted in Thailand and Indonesia. Relief workers fear the move will spark violence in the camps and question why the UNHCR has taken what they consider to be a very negative approach. ''Previous moves to tighten camp living conditions resulted in making the camps unmanageable. Cutting services is not an answer to the problem,'' the director of ISS, Mr Stephen Yau How-boa said. When the Government took a similar step in June 1988 after it introduced screening, the agencies were invited back within six weeks. Mr Phillip Barker, Hongkong-China director of Save the Children Fund, said he accepted the need for programmes to be scaled back, but was concerned whether addressing the assistance programme in isolation would result in speeding up voluntary repatriation. The boat people reportedly fear that a feeling of despair would add to the level of violence. ''There may well be problems, but risking avoidance and perpetuation of the situation is the worst way of serving people,'' the UNHCR's local chief of mission, Mr Robert Van Leeuwen said. Voluntary repatriation in the first three months of this year has not even reached 1,000, compared with an average 1,000 a month going home last year. Relief workers have also questioned the UNHCR's perception that the agencies per se have been a factor in the failure of voluntary repatriation. They are stunned by the wholesale removal of CFSI, which has credibility with the Vietnamese and is a trusted source of information for both the boat people and camp management. The cuts do not appear to be directly related to the UNHCR's finances as offers by agencies to run the services on their own means have been rejected. At the last count, the UNHCR owed the Hongkong Government $545 million for operating the camps. The director of CFSI, Ms Jane Warburton, said the group found the reasons for not wanting it to continue its services as very odd. There had been no rationale for the change and she questioned what they would be replaced with, particularly as people were feeling very uncomfortable with the general impact and implications of the decision to go down this road. She argued that CFSI had always lobbied hard against detention and in a bid to encourage people to return home, it ran programmes aimed at accelerating the process of moving. Mr Van Leeuwen said the issue had been seriously considered and final details on what programmes were to go were still being worked out. ''We must focus on the expeditious implementation of durable solutions and those non-essential elements of the assistance programme which prolong life in detention centres must be eliminated.'' Apart from the desire to get people out of the detention centres, Mr Van Leeuwen said the international community's willingness to go on supporting the problem was also obviously a factor. Correctional Services Department, Assistant Commissioner (Vietnamese), Mr Cheng Chi-leung said he did not oppose the moves, even though they may made the camps more difficult to manage. Refugee Co-ordinator Mr Brian Bresnihan said in view of the fact that the bulk of the population had been screened out, the Hongkong Government agreed with UNHCR that a new approach was needed.