Subject: Indonesian govt tells refugees to go home or be resettled

The Jakarta Post Friday, January 4, 2001

Govt tells refugees to go home or be resettled

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare Jusuf Kalla says the government will resolve refugee problems across the country in the next six-months as security conditions in most conflict areas has improved significantly.

Speaking at a press conference after a cabinet meeting in Jakarta on Thursday, Jusuf said the government would either send the refugees home or resettle them elsewhere.

"We hope we will no longer have a refugee problem which has burdened the country financially for the last four years," he said.

Jusuf said that improving security conditions had enabled his office to expedite efforts to provide homes and work for displaced people in various parts of Indonesia.

"Initially, we planned to settle the refugee problem within 10-months, but looking at the success of the peace dialogs in certain strife-torn areas, we are optimistic that we can do it in six months," Jusuf said.

"We are convinced that with the improved security conditions we will be able to send back these displaced people immediately."

Currently, Indonesia has around one million displaced people. Since 1999 the government had been trying to send them back home or to resettlement locations in other areas of the country.

Most of the refugees are victims of sectarian and communal wars in Aceh, Maluku, North Maluku, Central Sulawesi, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and Irian Jaya.

With the help of United Nations' High Commission for Refugees, Indonesia is continuing efforts to repatriate or resettle around 150,000 East Timorese refugees who are now living in West Timor.

Between January and August, 2001 alone, 300,000 people were displaced by conflict in various parts of Indonesia.

The government has to spend Rp 3.26 billion (US$326,000) daily for the refugees' food alone.

The government allocated Rp 693.5 billion ($77 million) from its 2001 budget to handle the refugee problem.

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