Subject: transcript: East Timor moves to close refugee camps

ABC Transcripts (Australia) April 26, 2008

East Timor moves to close refugee camps

Reporter: Anne Barker

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In East Timor, severe food shortages have forced the Government to increase its efforts to shift thousands of people still living in makeshift camps since the violence that rocked the country two years ago.

So, it's offering other incentives to rebuild the thousands of homes destroyed in 2006, and encourage the owners to return home.

Anne Barker reports.

ANNE BARKER: About 60,000 people still live in IDP camps in Dili, or camps for internally displaced people.

Most were victims of the violence and arson that swept the capital two years ago, when 8,000 homes were destroyed or damaged. Once a month they stand in line to receive a small ration of rice and oil.

But a few weeks ago the ration was halved, and now the lead agency, the World Food Programme, has cut its rations altogether.

JACINTO GOMES: So, this month we facing these difficulties, but we use the disaster money that present in the transition budget.

ANNE BARKER: Jacinto Gomes is East Timor's Secretary of State for Social Assistance. He says the Government has had to step in to fill the gap, but can't afford to feed so many people indefinitely

Instead, the Government is offering incentives to move people out of the camps, in the form of a lump sum to help rebuild their homes

JACINTO GOMES: Around 2,000 houses totally destroyed. It means that if they can't go into their house immediately, but need to build a new house.

ANNE BARKER: In recent months more than 400 families have agreed to take the money and go home. Depending on the damage, families can get up to $US 4,500 providing they can prove they're the rightful owners.

Since December, four IDP camps have closed, and one of the most troublesome camps inside the grounds of Dili's main hospital is tipped to empty next week.

JACINTO GOMES: From 600 families, only a few of them that are unable to return because they don't have a house.

ANNE BARKER: But the refugee problem is far from simple and not so easily resolved. Of the nearly 8,000 families still living in camps, many were only renting, meaning it's the owners who get the money and have the right of entry

Many others were occupying houses owned by Indonesians in the days before independence, and with no formal register of land title it's no easy task to decide who owns what.

The Government's former director of land and property is Pedro de Sousa Xavier.

PEDRO DE SOUSA XAVIER: This is the problem, you know, some people was occupied in '99 and after crisis in 2006 some people come back again and occupy this property.

ANNE BARKER: What about houses where there is no record?

PEDRO DE SOUSA XAVIER: We must identify, talk to the neighbours. We don't have any records in this country, but we have people understand, and the neighbours understand who lives here before I think, this information will help us to make a decision you know.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Pedro de Sousa Xavier in Dili, talking to Anne Barker.

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