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51 VIETNAMESE BOAT PEOPLE GO HOME FROM HONG KONG IN FORCED REPATRIATION

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The first group of Vietnamese boat people forcibly returned to their homeland from Hong Kong arrived Tuesday at Noi Bai Airport amid a major international controversy over their involuntary repatriation.

The 51 Vietnamese, mostly children, were roused from their beds in a refugee camp in Hong Kong before dawn, driven to the airport and put aboard a chartered jetliner, all within about two hours."They came down the gangway looking tired and depressed," said an official who witnessed the arrival of the boat people from Hong Kong.

He said the returnees were met by officials of the British Embassy and by representatives of various Vietnamese government departments and were quickly whisked away to a transit center.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said there were no tears or emotional displays as the refugees walked down the stairway from the chartered Cathay Pacific Airlines jetliner and passed through immigration procedures.

The eight men, 17 women and 26 children were put aboard buses for the transit center about nine miles from the airport, where they were expected to stay for two or three days before returning to their home areas.

A government spokesman in Hong Kong said each refugee returning to Vietnam, whether voluntary or involuntary, would receive $620 in a "reintegration assistance program." The cost will be split by Hong Kong and Britain.

There were no immediate reports of disturbances related to the forced repatriation among the 57,000 boat people remaining in detention centers in the British colony. About 40,000 Vietnamese could be forcibly returned if they are found not to be legitimate refugees.

A Vietnamese Foreign Ministry official admitted that the boat people returned Tuesday did not volunteer to go back to Vietnam, but he said they did not object, either.

A statement by the Foreign Ministry said that while Vietnam rejects forced repatriations as a violation of human rights, Hanoi had agreed with British and Hong Kong authorities to step up "acceptance of those who do not object to being repatriated."