Subject: Free rice increases refugee numbers in W.Timor -report

Indonesian Observer October 30, 2000

Free rice increases refugee numbers

JAKARTA - When free rice for East Timorese refugees is brought to Belu, West Timor, the number of 'refugees' increases almost fourfold, an official said yesterday.

East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Governor Piet Tallo said there are 67,000 East Timorese refugees in Belu, but whenever the rice handouts occur, there are more than 250,000 people signing up to get the staple commodity.

"I have just been informed this morning by Belu Regent Marselus Bere that because of the extremely high number of 'refugees', the 1,014 tons of rice intended for the genuine refugees was finished almost instantly," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

Tallo and his deputy Johanes Pake Pani have told Coordinating Minister for Social, Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that they don't know why the number of refugees increases when the rice gets handed out.

"I'm afraid that most of the rice is going to the wrong people, or that many of the refugees are getting the assistance more than once," the governor told the minister.

Tallo said that to prevent the possibility that refugees may enroll themselves many times using false names, future enrollments will take place simultaneously at all refugee camps.

If there is no increase in the number of refugees, the rice for them is expected to last until November 6. The government apparently doesn’t have enough cash to buy any meat or medicine for them.

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