Subject: Timorese refugees paying to go home, UN says

Timorese refugees paying to go home, UN says

SUAI, East Timor, Nov 13 (Reuters) - East Timorese refugees coming home from camps in West Timor are paying Indonesian soldiers to help secure their freedom, aid workers said on Monday.

The head of the U.N. refugee agency in the East Timor border town of Suai, Joan Allison, told a delegation from the U.N. Security Council Indonesian soldiers were levying registration fees on some of the thousands of East Timorese trying to go home.

"One group returning on Saturday were approached by TNI (military) and charged 25,000 rupiah ($2.70) per family," she told the 15-member delegation.

"In addition to cash, these soldiers took 10 chickens, three cows and a goat from the group numbering 85."

This represents a serious burden for the impoverished refugees, who have been living in crowded camps in Indonesian West Timor for more than a year.

More than 120,000 refugees are still in the camps after fleeing last year's post-independence vote chaos or were forced across the border by pro-Jakarta militias.

Speaking to a group of East Timorese locals in Suai, Security Council delegation head Martin Andjaba said he would do his best to pressure Indonesian authorities to allow all East Timor refugees to return home.

"Right now, they are suffering over there. They must come back," he said. "One of the problems is your fathers and mothers ... your brothers and sisters are across the border ... did not go there on their own free will. They were forced to go there. But they don't belong there."


The Security Council sent the delegation to visit East and West Timor as well as Jakarta after pro-Jakarta militias operating from the refugee camps butchered three U.N. aid workers in the West Timor town of Atambua in September.

All foreign aid workers pulled out of West Timor after the killings and have not returned because of security fears. The move has halted large-scale repatriation of the refugees still there.

The U.N. district administrator in Suai, Kenji Isezaki, told the delegation lack of funding was jeopardising investigations in serious crimes in the district.

He said several East Timorese who had confessed involvement in rape and murder committed during last year's political violence are being set free because of the lack of money for investigations.

The militias, supported by sections of the Indonesian military in a bid to sway last year's independence vote, laid waste to the territory after it overwhelmingly opted to end Jakarta's military occupation.

The world community is demanding the militias and the Indonesian soldiers and police who helped them be brought to justice over the violence.


In Jakarta, Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman told reporters he had prepared 14 lawsuits over the post-ballot violence.

"If the U.N. asks us about the probe, we are ready with the files," he said, without giving any details.

Darusman had named 19 people including some generals as suspects. But Jakarta has been criticised for failing to move against the then armed forces chief, General Wiranto, linked to the violence by a government human rights commission investigation.

Wiranto has since retired.

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