Subject: E.Timor refugees given deadline on leaving W.Timor

E.Timor refugees given deadline on leaving W.Timor

JAKARTA, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Jakarta is giving more than 200,000 refugees from East Timor three months to decide if they want to stay in Indonesia or go home, the official Antara news agency reported on Friday.

``By March 2000 at the latest, any East Timorese refugees in... (Indonesia) must have made up their mind whether they want to go back to East Timor or become Indonesian citizens,'' Antara quoted Coordinating Minister for Welfare Hamzah Haz as saying.

About 270,000 East Timorese fled across the land border into West Timor or by boat to neighbouring islands when pro-Jakarta militias went on a bloody rampage in September after the territory voted for independence.

``The East Timorese refugees are a social burden on the... provincial administration. Their condition could eventually arouse social jealousy among the native population,'' Hamzah said.

He said foreign aid the refugees were receiving left them better off than neighbouring West Timorese outside refugee camps.

But aid groups have complained of a lack of access to some camps and pro-Jakarta militias continue to bully refugees.

And the United Nations' refugee agency warned it would suspend the return of refugees if militia intervention continued.

The move follows an incident in West Timor in which 30 militiamen attacked a convoy of refugees in a truck in Atambua, 40 km (25 miles) from the border with East Timor.

``They beat up two refugees including a pregnant woman... the police were standing there virtually doing nothing,'' U.N. Human Rights Commissioner for Refugees official Ariane Quentier said in Dili on Friday.

``We've been explaining we cannot work in these conditions anymore and that the Indonesian authorities ultimately are responsible for the security of their territory.

``If this is ongoing... we would have to consider a suspension of our repatriation operations.''

Major-General Adam Damiri, head of the Udayana military command that takes in West Timor and neighbouring islands, said only 45,000 of the 270,000 refugees had gone home so far, Antara reported.

``We are still persuading the rest of them to go back to East Timor. It would be much better for them to live in their homeland rather than living in tents,'' Antara quoted him saying.

01:57 11-19-99


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