Subject: Many East Timorese refugees remain at camps in W. Timor

The Jakarta Post January 5, 2002

Many East Timorese refugees remain at camps in W. Timor

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

Some 1,750 East Timorese refugees from 245 families are still living in temporary camps in Noelbaki and Tuapukan camps in the regency of Kupang, West Timor as a government deadline for them to leave the area passes.

They are East Timorese people who opted to stay in Indonesia but have refused to be resettled out of West Timor.

Refugee Aleks Lau Mau told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the refugees would stay at the camps in Noelbaki, about 35 kilometers from Kupang, despite the government ultimatum. The refugees ignored the fact that the areas had no health and education services for their children.

The government stopped aid for the refugees at the end of December 2001 and ordered them to move this month.

"We will stay," Aleks said.

The 1,750 refugees in Noelbaki and Tuapukan camps are among 100,000 of the 129,000 East Timorese refugees who had been living in various camps in West Timor.

The 100,000 people are civilians but not civil servants.

The remaining 29,000 are servicemen and civil servants, who were not eligible for humanitarian aid from the government.

According to East Nusa Tenggara Deputy Governor Yohanis Pake Pani 65 percent of the 129,000 refugees, or around 75,000 are living in camps in Atambua, the capital of Belu regency.

The others are in living in the regencies of Kupang, South Central Timor, North Central Timor and the town of Kupang.

In the regency of Kupang alone there are around 20,000 refugees who were entitled to receive humanitarian aid, including the 1,750 people in Noelbaki and Tuapukan.

As many as 8,250 have been resettled, while the rest are spread throughout different camps in South Central Timor, North Central Timor and the town of Kupang.

Aleks' fellow refugees said they still enjoyed the aid, Rp 1,500 and 400 grams of rice per person per day, from the government this month.

According to the deputy governor all the refugees, including those in Atambua, still received the aid, meaning that they would not be starving at least until the end of January.

Aleks said the aid distributed in December was the aid the refugees should have received in November.

Asked what the refugees would do if they ran out of food in the future, Aleks said that as human beings they must be able to eat.

"If the local people could get food, we refugees could get food too. We will do anything to survive," Aleks said without elaborating.

Bernadus Bria, a refugee at the Tuapukan camp in the East Kupang district, about 35 kilometers from Kupang, said that the refugees didn't want to be resettled out of West Timor. Tens of other refugees agreed with Bernadus' statement, saying that by living in West Timor it would be easier for them to return to East Timor someday if they felt they had to.

"Yes, someday we'll return to East Timor," said Aleks.

According to Bernadus, the refugees were sick of the government's offer to resettle them. "We've been asked to fill out forms for resettlement three times in the two years we have stayed at the camps. But efforts to resettle us have never been made," Bernadus claimed.

But hundreds of families have been moved to South Sumatra for resettlement.

Simon Seran, another refugee, said that the government's instruction for the refugees to move was like a daylight dream.

"Remember that after the 1999 violence in East Timor, the government issued circulars, requesting East Timorese seek refuge in West Timor where houses, food and other daily needs would be made available to them. So I suggest that the government not set a time bomb in West Timor with its conflicting statements," Simon said.


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