Information Paper for PLC
Security Panel for the Meeting on 19 March 98

Vietnamese Refugees, Vietnamese Migrants and Vietnamese Illegal Immigrants

Introduction At the special meeting of the Security Panel held on 8 January 1998, members were briefed on the results of a comprehensive policy review and the way forward on Vietnamese refugees (VRs), Vietnamese migrants (VMs) and Vietnamese illegal immigrants (VIIs). This paper reports the progress of the Government's work in this area.

End of Port of First Asylum Policy

2.The Government announced on 8 January 1998 that the port of asylum policy be scrapped with effect from the next day. The Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 1998, giving effect to this change in policy, was enacted by the Provisional Legislative Council on 4 March 1998. New illegal arrivals from Vietnam intercepted after the cut off date (8 January 1998) are treated in the same way as illegal immigrants from other places are.

Population and New Arrivals

3.The latest VR/VM/VII population is shown in Annex A. While the population of VRs and VMs show a slight decrease compared with the position at the beginning of 1998, the number of VIIs has decreased from about 1*200 in January to about 980 as a result of our repatriation effort.

4.As regards new arrivals, the number of VIIs arriving in Hong Kong in the last few months has been lower than those in the same period last year. Details are at Annex泎. We shall continue to monitor closely to see whether the downward trend will continue.

Clearance and Repatriation of VIIs

5.In response to our invitation, the Vietnamese Government (VNG) has been sending interview teams to Hong Kong to clear VIIs for return to Vietnam. Two teams have come in February, and the next one will be here later this month. The last two teams have each interviewed and cleared 200-odd VIIs for return to Vietnam.

6.As a result of those clearances, 274 Vietnamese, including 248 VIIs and 26 VMs were repatriated on two flights under the Orderly Repatriation Programme (ORP) on 10瓱arch 1998. Another batch of VIIs will be repatriated on two ORP flights towards the end of this month.

7.As regards negotiation with the VNG for a speedy repatriation arrangement, we have put a proposal to the Vietnamese side whereby all Vietnamese new arrivals would be repatriated to Vietnam immediately upon interception. They would then have their identity and household registration verified in a holding centre in Vietnam. We are waiting for a response from the Vietnamese side, and are prepared to go to Hanoi to further discuss arrangements which could repatriate VII arrivals in future effectively and efficiently.

Closure of Camps

8.The High Island Detention Centre (HIDC) was scaled down in January 1998 with a net deletion of 39 posts from the establishment of the Correctional Services Department. It is estimated that savings in the region of $9illion per annum would be achieved. We also closed the New Horizon Vietnamese Refugee Departure Centre on 13瓱arch 1998. Eleven posts will be deleted and about $10 million savings are expected to be made on an annual basis.

9.As at mid-March, there are about 660 Vietnamese in HIDC. As repatriation continues, we will further scale down the Centre, which is the last remaining VM detention Centre in Hong Kong, with a view to closing it down eventually.

VMs and VRs

10.For VMs, we would repatriate the remaining cases as soon as their individual circumstances permit, and would continue to pursue the return of "non-nationals" VMs with Vietnam.

11.For VRs, we will continue to ask the UNHCR to exert its best efforts to resettle them in third countries, but this is expected to be a long drawn out process. Whilst in Hong Kong, VRs will be encouraged to lead a normal and independent life, and be self-reliant. We are working closely with the UNHCR on ways and means to achieve this objective. For example, residents of Pillar Point Vietnamese Refugee Centre are encouraged to seek services outside the camp in the same way as normal Hong Kong residents do. The clinic at the camp has been closed. Starting from the next school year, VR children will have access to normal schools. The camp management is also giving consideration to charging residents a fee to defray part of the cost of running the camp. As the UNHCR's responsibility for running the camp was originally intended to cover VRs only but now that the majority of the residents there (about 60%) are non-refugees (i.e. VMs and Ex-China Vietnamese illegal immigrants released on recognisance), Government is making a financial contribution of up to $13.5 million (about 60%) to the cost of running the camp.

UNHCR Debt and Advance Account

12.We have ceased to use the advance account arrangement for the care and maintenance of VMs since 7 January 1998. Expenses on this front, amounting to about $30'000 per month, are being charged to departmental votes. In February 1998, the UNHCR repaid an amount of USD500'000 to Hong Kong, thus slightly bringing down the total outstanding amount to HK$1.16illion. We shall continue to liaise with UNHCR as regarding the settlement of the outstanding amount.

Security Bureau
Government Secretariat
March 1998

Annex A

Statistics on VRs/VMs/VIIs
(Rounded figures as at 12.3.98)

Present Population:

VRs:1,200Pillar Point Centre:1,500(600 VRs
600 VMs
980High Island Detention Centre:660 (650
10 VMs)

Total No. of Vietnamese Arrivals since 1975:over 200,000 (excluding ECVIIs)
over 224,000 (including ECVIIs)

Total No. of Departures (accumulated total):

(a) VRs resettled:143,400
(b) VMs repatriated: voluntary 57,300
(c) VIIs repatriated:2,150
(d) ECVIIs repatriated:24,000


*1: Remaining VRs in self-arranged accommodation,remaining VMs/VIIs in penal institutions.

*2: The departure figure is higher than the arrival figure mainly due to the number of new-born babies.

Annex B

Number of New Arrivals

(as at 12.3.98)
July 110166-
Total1038172173(as at 12.3.98)