Subject: DPA: Aid workers confused by Indonesian deadline to halt West Timor aid

Deutsche Presse-Agentur March 15, 2000

Aid workers confused by Indonesian deadline to halt West Timor aid Jakarta

The recent declaration by the Indonesian government that it will stop all aid to the more than 100,000 East Timor refugees still languishing in West Timor camps from the end of March has thrown the international aid community into confusion, an aid official said Wednesday.

"If the Indonesian government suddenly pulled out completely, we would not have the resources to take over all the services, so there is total confusion about what happens after March 31," the programme manager of the Danish Refugee Council, Charles McFadden, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in a phone interview from the West Timor capital of Kupang.

Up till now the camps in West Timor - which are government-run camps, not U.N. refugee camps - have been receiving medical aid, some water supplies and rice in partnership with major aid programmes from U.N. agencies and international organizations, including Catholic Relief Services.

Ever since the extraordinary exodus from East Timor after last September's post-referendum violance, Indonesian West Timor has been flooded with refugees or deportees.

Huge numbers of East Timorese were coerced by the Indonesian military and their militia allies in East Timor to abandon their homeland.

More than 140,000 East Timorese have returned from the camps in West Timor, but with intimidation by militias still rife, more than 100,000 still remain, including the families of militias and former employees of the Indonesian military and civil service who would prefer to remain permanently under Jakarta's rule.

Indonesian authorities in West Timor have said that after March 31, feeding and caring for the refugees is the responsibility of the international community.

In the meantime Jakarta wants the refugees to decide whether to return to East Timor or opt for permanent resettlement in Indonesia.

McFadden said: "The Indonesian government has the key to unlock the situation. If the government really wanted to unlock the gate, and speed up the return of refugees back to East Timor, then all the former Indonesian army and civil servants who want to sign up to stay in Indonesia could be extracted from the camps."

"Perhaps it's a game of bluff going on," McFadden added. "Some Kupang officials are blaming the U.N. for the refugee problem. Maybe it's a political game to get more aid from the international community. Nobody really knows what is going to happen, but we believe it is an Indonesian responsibility."

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