Subject: AFP: Indonesia prepares East Timor refugee registration

Tuesday, May 22 8:55 PM SGT

Indonesia prepares East Timor refugee registration

JAKARTA, May 22 (AFP) -

Indonesian authorities are preparing for the registration of some 100,000 East Timorese refugees in camps in West Timor, a report said Tuesday.

The government has set up 507 registration stations across East Nusa Tenggara province which includes West Timor, to find out how many of the refugees want to return home, and how many want to remain in Indonesia.

The refugees are the last of an estimated 250,000 who were forced across the border by pro-Jakarta militias during an orgy of violence and destruction wreaked in the wake of East Timor's vote for independence on August 30 in 1999.

Some 1,600 registration officials and 80 field supervisors have been fielded for the June 6 registration, the Antara news agency quoted Paul Amalo, a refugee official, as saying.

Amalo, who heads the representative office of the Task Force for Refugee Problems in Kupang, the capital of East Nusat Tenggara, also spelled out the requirements to qualify for the registration.

Any refugee should fulfill one of two requirements -- either they should be born in East Timor; born to a family, where either the father or mother was born in East Timor -- or had been living in East Timor for five years up to the August 30 ballot there in 1999.

"So, an Indonesian serviceman or policeman who had been living in East Timor for five years, will qualify," Amalo said.

He said the "family approach" will be applied in the registration, where the whole family come to registration stations to fill up the forms, but the family head can "vote" in a secret ballot for the entire family to say whether they want to return or stay.

"The family head will enter the registration booth to cast a vote for the decision of his preference, whether to return to East Timor or to stay as an Indonesian citizen," Amalo said.

The papers, drawn up like a ballot paper, contain a drawing of "Garuda" (Indonesian eagle) to be pierced by those who opt to stay in Indonesia, and a map of East Timor for those who decide to return to their homeland.

Indelible ink will mark the fingers of refugees who had registered to avoid double vote castings.

Each family will also be issued with a card to collect food aid, and pocket money, Amalo said.

He said that the repatriation process for those who had opted to return to East Timor would take three days.

Amin Rianom from the Indonesian coordinating ministry for political, social and security affairs said Monday that in addition to the United Nations, observers from countries in Africa, Europe and Latin America had been invited for the registration.

Rianom also said those that opted to remain in Indonesia would be resettled in the districts of Timor Tengah Selatan, Timor Tengah Utara, Belu, Alor dan Kupang.

With the exception of Alor, which is an island northwest of West Timor, all other districts are in West Timor.

The authorities in West Timor said last month that around 119,000 refugees still live in the squalid camps.

The United Nations and other foreign agencies estimate the number at between 50,000 and 100,000.

They are eager to repatriate the refugees ahead of a June 20 deadline to register for elections in East Timor, which is currently under a transitional UN administration.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has repeatedly complained of intimidation by former pro-Indonesian militias against refugees wishing to return to East Timor.

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