|Subject: JP: Hundreds refuse to return to
E. Timor; Stage Sulawesi rally
see also response from UNHCR
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
The Jakarta Post [online]
July 2, 2003
Hundreds refuse to return to East Timor
MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (Antara): Hundreds of East Timorese currently under the care of the Al Anshar Foundation, other refugee groups and students staged a rally in the front of the provincial legislative assembly here on Wednesday, refusing to return to East Timor.
The demonstrators waved banners, protesting against the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) for trying to force their repatriation with the help of local police.
Head of Al Anshar Foundation orphanage for East Timorese Abdul Rahman told legislators that delegates from refugee affairs, UNHCR, Unicef and the East Timorese government, had visited the foundation, trying to force the inmates to leave South Sulawesi for East Timor.
"The Al Anshar charges were intimidated and terrorized by unidentified persons for refusing to return to East Timor," he said.
He said the repatriation had not been undertaken according to procedure. "Some of our charges were abducted."
Rahman stressed that the orphanage's charges and other refugees staying in South Sulawesi were pro-integrationist and wanted to become Indonesian citizens.
He called on the central government, the provincial administration and the police to refrain from launching any forced repatriation campaign.
"The government might as well meet with East Timorese refugees all over the country to speed up the process of their naturalization as Indonesian citizens," he said.
July 10, 2003
UNHCR clarifies on East Timor
We would like to provide a clarification regarding the article in The Jakarta Post on July 3, 2003, published under the heading East Timorese refuse to return home. A similar article was also published in thejakartapost.com under the heading Hundreds refuse to return to East Timor.
A reading of both articles is likely to lead to a misunderstanding of UNHCR's mission in Indonesia due to a number of inaccuracies, which I would like to correct.
The article said, "The demonstrators waved banners, protesting against the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) for trying to force their repatriation with the help of local police." One of UNHCR's functions is to seek durable solutions for refugees through voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement.
With regard to the issue of East Timorese children separated from their families due to the events of 1999, UNHCR is cooperating with the governments of Indonesia and Timor-Leste to assist in finding a long-term solution for them that is in the best interests of the children. In order to identify the best interest of the children, the relevant departments of the Indonesian government discuss the matter with the caretakers of the children in order to arrive, wherever possible, at a decision that is mutually agreed between caretakers, parents and the children concerned.
In some cases the decision is for children to return to live with their biological families in Timor-Leste. In other cases, parents decide to allow children to remain with caretakers -- often so that they can complete their education. In the latter, the most important thing is to reestablish the contact between the parents and child so that they can exchange news. In this regard, the cooperation of the caretaker is of paramount importance, to ensure that children receive accurate information about their family and the situation in Timor-Leste.
It is therefore incorrect to state that UNHCR was trying to "force" the children to return, as we seek to establish communication between all parties to allow an informed and free decision to be made.
ROBERT ASHE, Regional Representative, UNHCR, Jakarta
Note: Thank you for your clarification --Editor