Subject: JP: Special team verifies data on East Timorese refugees

The Jakarta Post March 4, 2002

Special team verifies data on East Timorese refugees

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The central government has dispatched a special team to verify the exact number of East Timorese refugees currently stuck in East Nusa Tenggara, where they are facing starvation after food aid was discontinued on Jan. 1.

The 46-member team from the Finance and Development Supervising Body (BPKP) appointed by Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla, arrived in the provincial capital of Kupang on Saturday.

The team has been tasked with finding accurate data on the number of the refugees currently staying at numerous camps in the regencies of Kupang, Belu, South and North Central Timor.

"We want only to ascertain the number of East Timorese people as requested by the coordinating minister for people's welfare," Permadi, who leads the team, was quoted by Antara as saying on Sunday in Belu.

He was speaking after meeting with officials of the local task force in charge of dealing with disaster and refugee affairs at the town's military district office.

The provincial administration says there are a total of 128,000 East Timorese being housed in refugee camps in East Nusa Tenggara, but Australia and East Timor put the figure at between only 60,000 and 80,000 people.

Most of the refugees are staying in Belu.

Permadi said his team would take one week to complete the job. "There are no other tasks except to determine the accurate number of the East Timorese refugees," he added.

However, Belu's military chief Lt. Col. Didi Sudiana said he was pessimistic that the team would be able to obtain accurate data in several refugee camps across the province.

"The authorities have faced difficulties in obtaining accurate data on East Timorese residents in this region, though we had registered the refugees on June 6 and June 7, 2001," he said as quoted by Antara.

One of the difficulties was the fact that many of the refugees often moved to other camps, Didi said, but added that his office would help facilitate efforts of the team.

He said that based on the latest registration figures, there were 168,000 refugees living at camps in Belu alone and many of them had returned to East Timor last month.

The team is not tasked with how to deal with problems faced by the starving refugees after the government stopped providing them with the food aid on Jan. 1.

Many of them have begun to use violence and have intimidated residents from surrounding villages, who have also complained that their animals and other assets were stolen by refugees.

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