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Vietnamese Prisoners

Volume 164: debated on Friday 12 January 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list those persons imprisoned in Vietnam for their political or religious beliefs on whose behalf Her Majesty's Government have made representations to the Government of Vietnam.

We regularly raise the question of human rights with the Government of Vietnam. Both bilaterally and together with our partners in the European Community, we have in the course of 1989 raised a number of specific cases, including individuals imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs. These include:

  • Father Dominic Tran Ninh Thu
  • Tran Van Luong
  • Doan Quoc Sy
  • Pham Van Thuong
  • Le Manh
  • Thich Quang Do
  • Thich Huyen Quang
  • Thich Tue Sy
  • Thich Duc Nhuan
  • Thich Tri Sieu
  • Nguyen Chi Thien

To ask the Secretary of Stae for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on (a) the incidence of cholera and (b) the availability of sufficient quantities of fresh water in the camps used for holding Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong.

In 1989 there were 23 cases of cholera in camps holding Vietnamese in Hong Kong.Enough drinkable fresh water is available in all centres. In 1988 the average daily consumption of water per preson was about 250 litres for all purposes, and in 1989 about 235 litres. Drinking water standards in Hong Kong comply with WHO guidelines on drinking water quality.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the practice followed in holding appeals against the findings of the screening procedure for Vietnamee refugees.

When the director of immigration refuses an asylum-seeker's claim to refugee status, the asylum-seeker has 28 days to apply to the refugee status review board (RSRB) for a review of the decision. The immigration department file on the asylum-seeker is made available to both the RSRB and the UNHCR. The asylum-seeker or the UNHCR may present additional information or documentation to the RSRB in support of the claim for refugee status. The RSRB considers the whole of the facts and submissions made by the applicants and/or by those acting on the applicant's behalf before confirming or reversing the director of immigration's decision. Where the RSRB considers it necessary, it may interview the asylum-seekers or the immigration officer before arriving at its decision.If the immigration officer is so interviewed, it is in the presence of the applicant who has the right to comment on what the immigration officer has said in answer to questions put by the board. Of the 4,594 appeals considered so far 392 (7·9 per cent.) have been upheld. In all, including appeals and UNHCR mandate cases, 922 persons (11·3 per cent.) have been classified as refugees out of 8,167 screened so far.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy not to repatriate unaccompanied Vietnamese children until their parents have been positively traced and identified.

We propose to take up this suggestion with the UNHCR's committee on unaccompanied minors in Hong Kong, which has a mandate to decide on a solution on a case-by-case basis in the best interests of each child.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if it is his policy to subject Vietnamese unaccompanied children in camps in Hong Kong to the same screening procedures as those used for adult Vietnamese; and if he will make a statement.

Guidelines for the screening of unaccompanied minors were endorsed by the international conference in Geneva in June last year. These stipulate that for children over 15 the interview procedure should be modified to take into account the special situation of each child. For those under 15, the UNHCR special committee on unaccompanied minors would be delegated to carry out the refugee status assessment. The Hong Kong authorities abide by these guidelines in their treatment of unaccompanied minors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under what age the term unaccompanied minor is applied by Her Majesty's Government to Vietnamese children in the camps in Hong Kong.

This term is applied to children under the age of 18 in accordance with documentation associated with the comprehensive plan of action endorsed by the international conference on Indo-Chinese refugees in Geneva in June 1989.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assurances he has received from the Vietnamese Government concerning passes for repatriated persons.

No assurances have been sought from the Vietnamese on this subject. We have no reason to believe that identity cards have not been issued to those who have returned. This is one of the issues to be raised in the course of monitoring.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he intends to take to improve conditions in the camps used to house Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong; and if he will make a statement.

We can most effectively improve conditions in the camps by accelerating the rate at which people leave them, through resettlement in the case of refugees, and repatriation in the case of those who are not. Our policy is directed firmly at these aims. In addition we have contributed or pledged over £21 million since mid-1989 towards accommodation for boat people in Hong Kong.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects to complete screening and resulting appeals at the current rate for the Vietnamese boat people currently in camps in Hong Kong.

At the current rate of screening and appeals, it is estimated that it will take about two years to complete the process for all Vietnamese boat people currently in camps in Hong Kong.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects to respond to the petition regarding the plight of the boat people in Hong Kong presented to him by the honourable Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is studying the petition presented by the hon. Member and will be replying to him very soon on the points which are raised in it.