Subject: JP: Timorese refugees told to vacate camps

The Jakarta Post August 13, 2002

Timorese refugees told to vacate camps

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

East Timorese refugees are to vacate camps across East Nusa Tenggara by Aug. 31, the deadline set for them to leave the shelter and receive government assistance to return to East Timor or resettle in the province, the provincial administration said on Monday.

Deputy Governor Johanis Pake Pani, speaking from the provincial capital of Kupang, said all camps must be vacated by Sept. 1.

"By that date, refugees choosing to stay in the province and become Indonesian citizens will have to leave the camps and join our resettlement programs," he said.

Pake Pani said the local administration had built 10,000 homes in several resettlement areas in West Timor, Flores and Sumba.

However, he did not say what actions the government would take against those who chose to stay on in the Indonesian province, but refused to join the government-sponsored resettlement program or return to East Timor.

"We don't have a decision yet for those cases," Pake Pani said.

He said the Indonesian government would continue assisting refugees in returning to their homeland until late this month.

After August, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization of Migrants (IOM) will take full charge of the repatriation program until December.

The central government has made Aug. 31 the deadline for all East Timorese refugees to leave camps and return home under the government-sponsored repatriation program.

Each family choosing to return to East Timor before September will receive Rp 750,000 in cash assistance from the Indonesian government.

"In line with the central government's decision, the deadline to facilitate the repatriation and provide funds guaranteeing the lives of refugees will end on Aug. 31, 2002.

"The policy that handles refugees will shift them to economic empowerment programs to be carried out in resettlement areas," Pake Pane said.

Some 250,000 East Timorese were forced to leave East Nusa Tenggara after their homeland voted for independence in August 1999. Most refugees have returned home.

Pake Pani said between 30,000 and 40,000 refugees or 16,000 families of refugees continue to live in camps across East Nusa Tenggara, including the regencies of Kupang, Belu and North Central Timor.

Stanis Tefa, a senior social affairs official at the provincial administration, said at least 54,000 refugees, comprising 20,000 families, had returned home between September last year and July of this year.

"Every day there are more refugees sent home, and another major repatriation drive will be held in the middle of this month before the Aug. 31 deadline," he said.

Meanwhile, councillors blasted the provincial administration's management on Monday for dealing with refugees, including former East Timorese civil servants and military officials.

Former civil servants from East Timor receive food assistance from the local government as they live with other refugees in the camps.

"Ex-civil servants from East Timor should not be categorized as refugees because they have permanent salaries. They don't need to get food assistance and other humanitarian aid from the government," Servatius Lawang, a member of the NTT legislative council, told Antara news agency.

Pake Pani denied that under his administration's policy, all former East Timorese civil servants were listed as refugees and entitled to receive government food assistance.

"That's the regulation, but I don't know how it is implemented in the field," he said.


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