Subject: JRS holds seminar on durable solutions in West Timor

JRS Dispatches Editorial would like to apologise for the lateness of this edition that was delayed due to technical problems.

JRS DISPATCHES No. 159, 29 October 2004

Twice monthly news bulletin from the Jesuit Refugee Service International Office

9. Indonesia: JRS holds seminar on durable solutions in West Timor



Local and provincial government bodies were summoned together with representatives of former refugees, local communities, NGOs, UN bodies and donor agencies for a one day seminar organized by JRS in Kupang and Atambua on the 12th and 15th of October. The initiative aimed at bringing relevant stakeholders together to discuss durable solutions for the remaining 15,000 former East Timorese refugees in West Timor. Their refugee status was ended in December 2002, although issues still remain on land rights, livelihood, education, healthcare and citizenship. West Timor is one of the poorest areas in Indonesia, and the local population lacks resources to accommodate the refugees, something which has caused conflict recently in some parts indicating the urgency of the situation.

JRS, Oxfam, Center for IDP Service (CIS) and the Commission for Justice and Peace made presentations of the current situation concluding that there are still obstacles ahead for finding durable solutions of repatriation, local integration or relocation. Although a number of the former refugees express interest in repatriating, the procedures are uncertain, especially after IOM ended their mission in East Timor. It is still unclear what mechanisms are in place to facilitate and monitor their return on the East Timorese side, and JRS plans to make a trip to East Timor to meet with UNHCR and other relevant bodies to discuss the issue. Local integration may seem to be the most viable solution for many of the remaining East Timorese. However land and water are scarce resources in West Timor, and the government supported by the humanitarian community has to empower the local population to enable peaceful and sustainable integration and relocation.

Throughout the discussion several recommendations to different stakeholders were raised. The government was urged to strengthen coordination and information, and to develop standards for humanitarian assistance to avoid conflict in and between communities. The national government was urged to clarify their role and ensure transparent use of funds. Furthermore, CIS in their presentation underlined the need for the government to think long term solutions rather than focus solely on closing camps. The refugee representatives both in Kupang and Atambua urged the humanitarian community and the government to continue their assistance, and the local communities stressed the importance of local empowerment, and implementation of programs in accordance with local customs.

JRS Indonesia is content with the outcome of the seminars. “The discussions were fruitful, and all participants were given an opportunity to raise their concerns and frustrations, which were later articulated into a joint list of recommendations addressed at all parties including the former refugees themselves,” JRS Indonesia national director Edy Mulyono says. “In Kupang, provincial government bodies participated actively in the discussions. In Atambua, we were disappointed by the low attendance of government officials”, he added.

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