Subject: Hundreds of East Timorese refugees demand resumption of aid

Agence France Presse June 29, 2002

Hundreds of East Timorese refugees demand resumption of aid


Hundreds of East Timorese refugees demonstrated outside the governor's office in East Nusa Tenggara province Saturday demanding a resumption of humanitarian aid, the national news agency Antara reported.

The protesters vowed to remain at the office until aid -- cut off last January 1 -- is restored.

"We're hungry. We want food," yelled the protesters, who included women and children, according to Antara.

About 20 demonstrators were allowed inside the governor's compound to meet a government official. Negotiations were continuing, Antara reported.

The protest took place in Kupang, capital of the province which borders East Timor, the former Indonesian province which became independent on May 20 after 31 months of United Nations administration.

More than 250,000 East Timorese either fled or were forced across the border to Indonesian West Timor in 1999 during a campaign of murder, arson and looting by Indonesian security forces and militias. The campaign followed East Timor's vote to separate from Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

The UNHCR says fewer than 50,000 refugees are still in Indonesia, of whom 30,000-35,000 are expected to choose to return.

Most of those who remain are former militias, police, military, civil servants and their followers.

The government in West Timor wants the refugees to go home or to leave their camps and resettle elsewhere in Indonesia. Government officials have said that although refugee assistance has stopped, emergency aid is available for people facing starvation.

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