Hong Kong's last Vietnamese refugee camp - the Pillar Point Vietnamese Refugees Centre (PPVRC) in Tuen Mun, will close at the end of May as scheduled, Deputy Secretary for Security Mr Timothy Tong stated today (May 29).
"The PPVRC will close by midnight on Wednesday (May 31) and the camp management will also cease to be in operation from that time.
"Any persons staying behind in the site after May 31 will not be regarded as camp occupants as the refugees centre no longer exists. Technically, they are trespassers and are subject to removal any time," he said.
Mr Tong called on the Vietnamese remaining in the camp to move out voluntarily by then. Some 700 camp occupants have already found their own accommodation in the past three months and integrated into Hong Kong society.
He noted that camp occupants had been given adequate notice of the deadline for removal. When the Government announced the Widened Local Resettlement Scheme (WLRS) on February 22 this year, it also made it clear that as an integral part of the scheme, the PPVRC would be closed and all occupants would have to move out of the camp by the end of May.
The WLRS was adopted as a humanitarian solution to the long drawn out Vietnamese boat people saga, which spans quarter of a century. Under the scheme, some 1 400 Vietnamese refugees (VRs) and migrants (VMs) who have no prospects of resettlement elsewhere may apply for settlement in Hong Kong.
As at May 27, 90 per cent or 1 274 eligible Vietnamese, including 841 VRs and 433 VMs have applied under the scheme. The majority of them have moved out of the PPVRC and stood on their own feet.
Mr Tong said that Caritas-Hong Kong - camp manager of the PPVRC, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Government Departments had spared no efforts in assisting camp occupants to move out since late February.
Removal allowance ranging from $3,950 to $11,410 depending on family size have been offered to all Vietnamese living in PPVRC upon their vacation. So far, a total of 181 families, involving 481 persons, have obtained removal allowance totaling some $1.17 million. As more eligible persons apply, the total payout is expected to reach $3.1 million.
In addition, families having genuine hardship have been referred to the Social Welfare Department for consideration of granting compassionate rehousing and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). So far, 76 persons have been granted both compassionate rehousing and CSSA, while another 163 persons have also been granted CSSA.
"The WLRS focuses on the essence of self-reliance. Camp occupants who do not merit special assistance are expected to stand on their own feet. The decision to close PPVRC has taken into account the interest of both the community and the occupants concerned." Mr Tong said.
"Our decision has the full endorsement of the UNHCR," he added.
He went on to disclose that the Security Bureau had commissioned Civil Aid Service (CAS) to maintain site discipline and enforce strict access control upon closure of the PPVRC.
"CAS will move into the PPVRC on May 31 at 4 pm. They will formally take over from Caritas-Hong Kong responsibility for the site with effect from midnight. Police and Fire Services will stand ready to provide assistance as required," he said.
After closure of the PPVRC, normal services in the camp like cleaning and maintenance will terminate. Entry into the site will be restricted. No entry will be allowed between midnight and six o'clock in the morning. Access may be denied for those who do not have a definite plan to move out.
Nevertheless, Caritas-Hong Kong will continue to maintain an off-site social service unit at the Tuen Mun District Office to provide counselling service to those in need and to follow up on hardship cases and assist the remaining Vietnamese to move out.
End/ Monday, May 29,2000