HL Deb 08 May 1987 vol 487 cc411-2WA
Lord Renton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What further steps they are proposing to alleviate the problems caused by the continuing flow of Vietnamese refugees to Hong Kong.

The Minister of State, Home Office (The Earl of Caithness)

: This Government have an excellent record of participation in international efforts to relieve the problems caused by the outflow of Vietnamese to Hong Kong and elsewhere in South-East Asia.

Between 1979 and 1981 we accepted for settlement here, following the initial surge of departures from Vietnam, nearly 20,000 Indo-Chinese refugees, of whom over 12,000 were Vietnamese from Hong Kong. Subsequently we continued to accept Vietnamese but applied the normal immigration rules governing family reunion. In 1985, however, following a recommendation by the Home Affairs Committee's Sub-Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, we agreed to accept around 500 Vietnamese (50 of whom were not from Hong Kong) whose family relationship with those already here did not meet the normal criteria. Following that agreement, some 1,200 further offers of individual resettlement from Hong Kong were made by other countries.

We have now considered what further steps might be taken against a background of the need on the one hand to maintain tight immigration controls and, on the other, to do everything possible to help Hong Kong. We have concluded that we should take a further number of Vietnamese from Hong Kong both as a contribution to reducing the population in the camps in Hong Kong and to give a signal to other resettlement countries of our continuing commitment to Hong Kong. We have therefore decided to accept for settlement here 468 named individuals who have been identified as close relatives of those already here. They will be resettled at a rate of about 20 a month spread over almost two years to ensure that our reception facilities are not overstretched.

We believe that, as in the past, other countries are likely to follow suit and offer a substantial number of further resettlement places for Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong. We shall be making every effort to persuade them to do so. We do not, however, consider that resettlement alone is a sufficient answer to Hong Kong's refugee problem. Concerted international action aimed at a durable solution to the problem is required and, to this end, we shall be seeking to put to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the main resettlement countries the case for a common approach. In doing so we shall stress our own continuing commitment to Hong Kong, of which the resettlement commitment announced today is clear evidence.