Subject: Asahi: Thousands stranded in shelters as rioting rages

Thousands stranded in shelters as rioting rages




DILI--Even though the violence that swept East Timor's capital subsided last July, flare-ups are still common--despite the presence of United Nations police officers. As a result, thousands of residents remain holed up in 50 of the city's evacuation centers.

When the turmoil erupted last April, more than 150,000 people took refuge in the facilities. After things quieted down, about 120,000 returned home. However, 30,000 remained at shelters as of mid-January.

Some 2,600 evacuees are lodged in spartan conditions in a monastery in Balide district, northern Dili. They occupy the main building or camp outside in tents pitched helter skelter. Each evacuee receives monthly food rations of eight kilograms of rice, three kilograms of soybeans and 750 milliliters of cooking oil.

Alexandrina de Araujo, 32, lives in the shelter with her 35-year-old husband and their 4-year-old son.

In late April, the family fled to relatives in West Timor, Indonesia, to escape the violence. After the rioting ended, they returned in August only to find their home had been reduced to ashes. The family took shelter at the monastery.

"We have no place to go. The government does nothing for us (to help rebuild)," she said.

According to the United Nations, of the 30,000 evacuees, 16,000 lost their homes in the turmoil. While the homes of the remaining 14,000 evacuees are mostly intact, they are terrified of returning because of the continuing violence.

Seiko Toyama, a member of Peace Winds Japan, a Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization, said evacuees do not receive food aid after returning home. So they have no choice but to stay in the shelters, she said.

"Many evacuation facilities are in poor condition, such as leaky roofs. Children cannot go to school," she added.

In December, a number of children in the shelters died of tuberculosis. The deaths caused considerable alarm among the evacuees who feared the possible spread of disease.

The 1,700 police officers dispatched by the United Nations are engaged in maintaining security through 10 police stations scattered around Dili. However, small-scale rioting still occurs. In one incident in December, a mob stormed and looted a rice warehouse operated by the World Food Program.

Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta said: "We cannot say the security situation has stabilized. We must also rebuild our police

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