Subject: Indon military fails to keep promises on refugees: UNHCR

Fewer East Timorese refugees return despite army pledges: UNHCR

DILI, East Timor, Dec 1 (AFP) - The number of East Timorese refugees returning from Indonesia has dropped despite Indonesian promises to help speed up their passage, the UN refugee said on Wednesday.

"We are very shocked," said Ariane Quentier of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "If you look at the figures, they have even got worse."

Quentier told reporters that between 1,000 and 2,000 refugees were returning to East Timor daily now, compared to about 4,000 a day two weeks ago and a peak of 7,000 on November 22.

On November 22, generals from the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) and the UN-sanctioned International Forces for East Timor (Interfet) signed a written border agreement to speed up the emptying of the refugee camps in Indonesian West Timor.

About 260,000 people were either deported to West Timor or fled there to escape the militia violence which erupted after the East Timorese voted for independence in an August 30 ballot.

Most are still stuck in camps there, many of them too frightened to return or intimidated into remaining.

Indonesian police and the TNI have not done much to change the situation despite the border accord, Quentier said. "Our access to the camps has not changed much," she charged.

"That is the only country in the world where we access the camp with fully armed protection."

But even an Indonesian army escort makes no difference.

On Monday, the UNHCR was only able to get 19 people out of a camp where 7,000 East Timorese are staying in Kupang, the main town in West Timor, she said.

"What we want is to get access to the camps without having the militias preventing us, and prevent the militias from running the camps," Quentier said.

By signing the November 22 accord, Indonesian Major General Adam Damiri and Brigadier General Sudrajat agreed to "facilitate the efficient and safe flow of returning refugees."

The agreement said the militias would be disarmed and detained, and guaranteed the army would ensure that refugees were not subjected to intimidation or threats, including from the militias in refugee camps.

"Furthermore TNI shall ensure the safe and secure passage of refugees as they depart for East Timor," said the agreement, also signed by Interfet Commander Major General Peter Cosgrove.

Damiri, who is being transfered from his position as regional Indonesian commander, was named by an Indonesian rights inquiry as a likely suspect in the human rights abuses which took place here in September.

Earlier Wednesday visiting Australian opposition leader Kim Beazley said: "The international community makes a judgment about their relationship with Indonesia on the basis of the handling of those who have yet to return home."

Beazley told journalists he thought the Indonesian leadership understood that.


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