Subject: Aid for East Timorese refugees to stop

The Jakarta Post October 4, 2001

Aid for East Timorese refugees to stop

Kupang, Nusa Tenggara Timur: The government has said that, as of December this year, there will be no more humanitarian aid for around 290,000 East Timorese who opted to stay in Indonesia and are now living in West Timor, East Nusa Tenggara province.

This means that, starting next year, the refugees will be expected to rely on their own resources to survive.

East Nusa Tenggara Provincial spokesman JB. Kosapilawan said on Wednesday that the government would now start to concentrate on repatriation and resettlement programs.

He said that the refugees had received humanitarian aid for two years and that they could be lacking the spirit to survive as they had been too dependent on the government.

The government's decision came as a blow to the refugees, who reacted negatively.

"By stopping the aid, the government intends to kill us refugees gradually. We have nothing that will allow us to live independently. We don't have any plots of land to till," said Cornelis Ribeiru, coordinator of refugees in Tuapukan.

Soon after the East Timor referendum sponsored by the United Nations in 1999, at least 500,000 East Timorese flooded West Timor. Most of them were poor and brought nothing with them.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) entered West Timor and started to give humanitarian aid to the refugees. The aid was halted last year following the promulgation of a United Nations resolution stating that West Timor was not safe.

Resolution No. 1319, which also ordered the pullout of UNHCR workers and a halt to humanitarian aid, was issued after the killing of three UNHCR workers in September 1999.

Since then, the Indonesian government has provided the refugees with humanitarian aid of Rp 1,500 and 400 grams of rice per person per day.

"The government, through the state budget and provincial budget, has spent around Rp 2 trillion on various programs related to the refugees. The amount includes donations from various parties," Kosapilawan said.

"Therefore we are now concentrating on the resettlement programs for those who want to stay and repatriation programs for those who want to go to East Timor."

The repatriation programs have apparently worked well.

According to records compiled by UNHCR Dili, at least 130,000 people had returned to their hometowns by September 2001.

Meanwhile the resettlement programs, which will be carried out by the transmigration provincial office, were also promising.

Yoseph Setiohady, the head of the transmigration office, said that West and East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku and South Kalimantan had expressed their willingness to accept the refugees.

The government is also providing 5,000 houses for resettled refugees in the Kupang, Belu, East Sumba, Timor Tengah Utara and Timor Tengah Selatan regencies. "Some 2,300 of the houses are ready for use."

In a separate interview, the head of the resettlement and infrastructure provincial office, Piet Djami Rebo, said that more houses would be built in Flores. The project would be funded by grants of Rp 40 billion from the European Union. 

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