Subject: AN: Economic Hardship Prompts 26 ETese to Seek Asylum

Antara - The Indonesian National News Agency

October 20, 2003

ECONOMIC HARDSHIP PROMPTS 26 EAST TIMORESE TO SEEK ASYLUM

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara, Oct 20 (ANTARA) - As many as 26 East Timorese nationals sought asylum in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara province, owing to not only the security problem but also deteriorating economy in East Timor, an Indonesian military officer has said.

"I am not sure that they are seeking asylum just because of intimidation from the East Timorese pro-independence group. I see the economic problem in that East Timor has prompted them to flee their home country to Indonesia," Chief of the East Nusa Tenggara military command Col. Moeswarno Moesanip said here Monday.

Moeswarno said his side was awaiting a response from the East Timorese government to deal with the problem being faced by 26 East Timorese asylum seekers.

"If the East Timorese government and the UN Peace Keeping Force in East Timor declare they are able to give security guarantee to the 26 asylum seekers, we will immediately return them to their home country," he said.

Moeswarno said the case on the 26 East Timorese asylum seekers was a new issue but he saw it as a 'new criminal modus operandi' of East Timorese who wanted to grab food stuffs free of charge on the border shared by East Nusa Tenggara and East Timor.

"East Timor is now suffering serious economic problems, and thus I consider that the reason of the 26 East Timorese seeking asylum for security reason is impossible," he said.

He thus called on the East Timorese government to heed the problem unless it would bring about bad impacts on the ex-East Timorese refugees who have decided to become Indonesian citizens.

"The ex-East Timorese refugees who still stay at refugee camps are feared to be jealous of the 26 East Timorese who receive foods free of charge. It is a big question that must be settled soon," he added.

It was reported that the 26 asylum seekers hailing from East Timor's district of Bobonaro crossed the border and went to Atambua through tiny paths on October 15, 2003 on the account of increasing intimidation from the East Timorese pro-independence group.

Moeswarno pointed out some of the 26 asylum seekers have several times visited Atambua for food stuffs and brought them (the foods) to East Timor.

"They seek asylum only as a new modus. If the case on the 26 East Timorese is not settled soon, there will likely be an exodus of East Timorese to the western part of East Nusa Tenggara only for pretending to seek asylum," he said.

Misguidance

Moeswarno said the East Timor issue which eventually separated the territory from the unitary state of Indonesia through a UN-supervised plebicite on August 30, 1999, was caused by misguidance.

"Indonesia had done a lot for East Timor, but in many respects we had also misguided them (the East Timorese). Consequently, they wanted a popular separation," Moeswarno disclosed.

He said if East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao and Prime Minister Mari'e Alkatiri also misguided their people, there would be an exodus of East Timoreses who would seek asylum in Indonesia like what the present 26 asylum seekers had done.

"We must exercise more cautions over this problem as we do not want misguidance to recur," Moeswarno said.

East Timor officially seceded from Indonesia in October, 1999, as a consequence of the pro-independence camp's victory in the United Nations organized popular consultation held on August 30, 1999.

The territory integrated into Indonesia in 1976 but the United Nations never recognized the integration process.


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