Subject: Indon govt sets deadline for East Timor refugees

The Jakarta Post November 8, 2001

Govt sets deadline for East Timor refugees

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

As of January 2002, the government will no longer provide any financial or food assistance to East Timorese refugees in West Timor as it will reinstate the Indonesian citizenship of those who choose to stay in Indonesia.

Yohannis Pake Mani, deputy governor of East Nusa Tenggara, said that according to an official letter sent by Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno to the governor and regents in the province on Oct. 25, 2001, the government had decided to grant Indonesian citizenship status to all East Timorese refugees who had not returned home by Dec. 31, 2001.

"Consequently, those who remain in the province beyond the deadline will be treated as Indonesian citizens, will receive their civilian rights and will be given Indonesian identity cards as stipulated by Law No. 5/1960 on Indonesian citizenship," he told The Jakarta Post here on Wednesday.

He added that the decision had been made following consultations with the UN Development Program (UNDP) and UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

More and more East Timorese refugees are returning to their homeland as the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) has given a security guarantee for those who have chosen to go home.

The government has offered Rp 500,000 and rice aid to refugees who want to return.

Of around 143,000 East Timorese refugees in West Timor, more than 8,000 have gone home while the remainder have been offered the choice of remaining in the province permanently or joining the government-sponsored resettlement program in other provinces.

During their stay in the province, the government has provided the refugees with Rp 1,500 and 400 grams of rice per day per person.

Yohannis said the refugees had actually retained their Indonesian citizenship because they had been Indonesian citizens during East Timor's integration with Indonesia.

But he added that the Indonesian citizenship of refugees who chose to stay in Indonesia would be reinstated by a joint decree to be issued by Minister Hari Sabarno, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda in the near future.

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