Subject: AN: 26 ET Asylm Seekers Finally Deported

TWENTY-SIX E TIMORESE ASYLUM-SEEKERS FINALLY DEPORTED

December 22, 2003 8:36pm Antara

Atambua, E Nusa Tenggara, Dec 22 (ANTARA) - The local immigration office on Monday finally proceeded to deport the 26 East Timorese nationals who had been seeking asylum here since last October.

The deportation process began at 10.00 am (local time), when Atambua immigration officers approached the East Timorese to persuade them to cooperate in the exercise.

However, the group which was led by Cornelis Fernandes, refused to budge and ignored the immigration officers' request to get into a truck that would transport them to the border with East Timor.

In the face of the resistance, the Atambua immigration officers then called for police assistance, and eventually, the East Timorese were one by one forcibly put on the truck along with their belongings except their seven cows.

The cows were turned over to the deportees' relatives in Salore village, East Tasifeto subdistrict, Belu district.

After all of the East Timorese asylum-seekers had been bundled onto the truck, they were driven to the border at Moa'ain town in East Tasifeto subdistrict, escorted by Indonesian military and police vehicles.

East Timor National Police Chief Commissioner Paul de Fatima Marthins and Border Services Department Chief Carlos Almaeda Jeronimo welcomed the deportees.

Along with some top Indonesian military and police officers, including the 1605/Belu district military commander, Lt Col Ganip Warsito, Paul and Carlos brought the 26 deportees to the Batugade border checkpoint in East Timor.

Among those who witnessed the deportation process were UNHCR and Internatinal Organization of Migration (IOM) representatives.

Meanwhile, the head of the Atambua Immigration Office, Slamet Santoso, said the deportation was the best solution to the problem of the 26 East Timorese nationals.

Lt Col Warsito said the Belu police and military had only played a role in securing the deportation process.

The 26 East Timorese nationals fled their homes in East Timor and crossed the border into Belu district illegally on October 15, 2003 to seek refugee status.

East Timor was an Indonesian province from 1976 to 1999 but it seceded from the republic in October 1999 as a consequence of the pro-independence camp's victory in a UN-organised plebiscite in August 1999.

The territory which occupies the eastern half of Timor island, officially declared its independence from the United Nations in May 2002 after being ruled by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor since 1999.

(THROUGH ASIA PULSE)

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