Subject: AN: UNHCR Prioritizes Repatriation

Antara - The Indonesian National News Agency

October 2, 2002


Atambua, E Nusa Tenggara, Oct 2 (ANTARA) - East Timorese refugees in Belu regency, East Nusa Tenggara province, believed that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in providing aid gave priority to repatriation participants rather than to East Timorese refugees who opted to stay in Indonesia.

Such belief was expressed during a dialog with UNHRC resident representative in Jakarta Robert Ashe at the Beli regent's office here on Wednesday.

"We wonder why the UNHCR is thinking more of repatriation than of the refugees who preferred to stay in Indonesia, while the UNHCR is supposed to deal with the problems of all refugees, not only repatriation," one of the leading refugees who hailed from Manatotu, Joao de Jesus, said.

The Motabuik refugee camp coordinator said UNHCR has not done much to help the East Timorese refugees who are still staying in East Nusa Tenggara, despite the fact that the refugees -- tens of thousands of them -- are in a deplorable condition.

He also said that most of the East Timorese refugees staying in different places in the province were ready to accept a decision to abolish the term "refugees" as of December 31, 2002.

But such international decision should be followed by a best solution such as the preparation of proper living quarters for the refugees along with land for their future.

Responding to the complaints of the East Tumorese refugees, head of the Dili UNHCR Robert Ashe said the international organization in providing aid has been giving priority to repatriation rather than to the refugees who decided to stay in their camps.

He said the UNHCR had always believed that the best solution to a refugee problem anywhere in the world is repatriation or facilitating the refugees to return to their land.

"Home is always better than other locations. We have practiced this principle in many parts of the world with success," he said.

However, he said the UNHCR will also provide assistance to the East Timorese refugees who decided to stay in Indonesia by building resettlements and empowerment of the refugees.

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