HC Deb 09 June 1988 vol 134 cc652-3W
Mr. Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about his recent visit to the Vietnamese refugee camp in Hong Kong.

Mr. Eggar

My right hon. and learned Friend visited the Green Island reception centre and the Chi Ma Wan closed centre in Hong Kong. He was impressed by the efficiency with which both centres are run by the Hong Kong Government, and by the great efforts made to ensure that conditions are as humane as possible.

There has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of Vietnamese boat people arriving in Hong Kong in recent months. The population in the camps has risen to some 15,000, compared with about 8,000 a year ago. More than 1,500 of these have arrived in June. There is little realistic prospect of resettling people on this scale. The great majority are leaving Vietnam for essentially economic reasons, not because of political persecution.

This situation cannot go on indefinitely. We are considering urgently with the Hong Kong Government whether their current policy of treating all Vietnamese boat people arriving in Hong Kong as refugees should be changed.

My right hon. and learned Friend took the opportunity to raise the problem of the Vietnamese boat people with the Vietnamese, Chinese and Soviet Foreign Ministers in New York on 7 June. We will continue to take every opportunity to emphasise to all Governments concerned the need to find appropriate durable solutions to the problem.