Subject: Indonesia to Halt Aid to E Timorese Refugees by April

Indonesia to Halt Aid to E Timorese Refugees by April

KUPANG, Indonesia Feb 23 Asia Pulse/Antara - Indonesia, already short of funds, will stop channelling humanitarian aid to East Timorese refugees in East Nusa Tenggara province from April 1.

The decision was made by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Poverty Eradication, the East Nusa Tenggara Vice Governor Johannes Pake Pani told representatives of 15 non-governmental organizations during a meeting here Tuesday.

The organizations included the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

During the meeting, Pake Pani said it was high time the refugees made a choice to return to their homeland or stay in Indonesia.

A team from the ministry would evaluate their choice, Pake Pani said.

He said those who wanted to stay in Indonesia would be asked to participate in the government's transmigration programme.

Asked about the safety of the refugees considering that pro-integration Aitarak chief, Eurico Guterres, was still roaming the camps, Pake Pani said Army personnel had been posted in the camps.

He also said Governor Piet Tallo had reprimanded Guterres, telling him not to threaten those who wanted to return to East Timor.

"One thing that worries us is the underground militia which threatens the refugees. Its moves cannot be controlled," he said.

About 200,000 East Timorese have fled their homeland, taking refuge in East Nusa Tenggara following the violence that erupted after the August 30 independence vote in East Timor.

About 158,000 refugees continue to take shelter in neighbouring Indonesia.

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