Subject: Fears 40 missing E. Timorese children abducted for sex trade

Sydney Morning Herald 29/10/99

Fears for 40 missing children

By LINDSAY MURDOCH, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta

Investigators fear more than 40 East Timorese children aged from five to 12 have been taken from Jakarta-controlled camps in West Timor to be put into the Indonesian sex trade. The child-care investigators have also warned of thousands of underage children - who are living in appalling conditions in the camps - being exploited, including some being sold through illegal adoptions.

Indonesia's National Commission for the Protection of Children said at least 312 East Timorese babies died in six West Timorese refugees camps in the six weeks after the outbreak of post-referendum violence early last month. The commission said 11,892 were ill or suffering from malnutrition.

The commission, partly funded by the Indonesian Government and the United Nations, warned the arrival of monsoon rains and a grave shortage of medicines and medical facilities would cause more deaths.

The United Nations Children's Fund estimated that there were still as many as 400,000 displaced East Timorese, who faced worsening health conditions as rain accelerated the spread of infections such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and respiratory infections. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the human rights group Amnesty International said yesterday that as many as 200,000 East Timor refugees still in West Timor continued to be terrorised by pro-Jakarta militia.

Amnesty said it was still receiving credible reports that East Timorese refugees in West Timor were suffering from intimidation, attacks and abductions. The UNHCR spokesman in Dili, Mr Jacques Franquin, said Indonesian authorities in West Timor had not made a decision about the militia who were "still controlling some camps, still intimidating the refugees and this is the cause of our problems".

Nearly 40 per cent of refugees in the almost totally destroyed East Timor or Indonesian-ruled West Timor were aged under 15, international agencies said.

Indonesian newspaper have quoted the head of a task-force investigating conditions at camps along the West Timor border as saying attempts were being made to find out who had flown at least 40 refugee children from the town of Kupang to Denpasar and Jakarta. It was likely they faced exploitation in the sex industry, he was quoted as saying.


Press Release National Commission for the Protection of Children (Komisi Nasional Perlingungan Anak) KKOMNAS-PA Jl Tebet Timur IV No 29, Jakarta 12820. Tel: 021-8350420, Fax: 021- 8291985 E-mail:

Report of an Investigation for the Formation of A Trauma Centre for the Children of East Timorese Refugees >From East Timor in West Timor 11-14 October 1999

Number of Refugees Although the Indonesian Government has already made efforts to return a number of East Timorese refugees back to East Timor, according to data at the Department of Health Regional Offices (Kanwil Depkes) in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), up until 19 October 1999, there were still 265,933 East Timorese (or 53,793 families) located in a number of regencies in NTT. 144,933 refugees are located in Belu Regency; 39,700 in Timor Tengah Utara (TTU) Regency; 5,717 in Timor Tengah Selatan (TTS) Regency; 43,487 in a number of refugee camps all over Kupang municipality with a further 23,933 in Kupang Regency. More are to be Found in East Flores, Ende, Sika and Manggarai.

However, a source from the St Theresia diocese suggests that there are still thousands of refugees who are living in the mountainous areas of NTT. More refugees are staying with families in the Amplar village area, TTU Regency. Thus, the number of refugees in NTT is greater than the figure given above.

Ironically, of the 265,933 refugees accounted for, there is no data which relates to the number of children under 18 years. A variety of government, social and non-governmental as well as international organisations, as confirmed by the National Commission for the Protection of Children (Komnas-PA), are not able to give accurate figures on the number of refugee children. However, based on the results of the Komnas-PA investigation in six refugee areas, namely Naibonta, Noelbaki, Naen, Nenuk, Atampupu and Atambua villages, it is estimated that around 60% of the total number of refugees are children under the age of 14 years. 60% of those in turn are under the age of 5 years.

80% of the Refugees are Children and the Elderly Based on the investigation by Komnas-PA in the six refugee camps named above, it is evident that most of them are either the elderly or young children. 80% of the refugees are the elderly (male and female) and children under 12 years. Meanwhile, it is unusual to see refugees within the age group 16-30 years.

We may well ask ourselves, where are all those in the age-group 16-30? There is no certain answer. When Komnas-PA made attempts to find out where these young adults were, very few people were prepared to answer, and then only with great suspicion. For the most part, be they adults or children, the answer was “I don’t know.” Others said “they are still in East Timor and other refugee camps.” Others however suggested that they had joined enthusiastically with the pro-integration paramilitaries.

Four Options In its efforts to deal with the refugees found in NTT, the government, via the NTT Regional Department for Social Affairs and the office of the Ministry of Health, have given the refugees four options. The first option: to take part in a transmigration programme; the second option: to return to East Timor; the third option: to remain in NTT and live with the people of NTT; the fourth option: to live in an are of Indonesia other than NTT. Based on conversations by the Komnas-PA Investigation Team with the people at the six refugee locations found in TTU Regency, Kupang municipality, TTS Regency as well as Kupang Regency, and Belu Regency, 60% of the refugees stated that they would chose the option to return to East Timor once their safety had been secured. Most of the rest chose to remain in NTT. Only a small number chose the option to take part in a transmigration programme, and those were not originally from East Timor but who had lived in Bumi Loro Sae for a long time.

Deaths While the DPR/MPR members are busy dividing up and handing our power in Senayan, the conditions of the East Timorese children in a number of NTT Regencies has escaped the notice of the national political agenda and has been drowned by political issues. However, the fact point to there being hundreds of thousands of children who have become the victims of the armed conflict in Esat Timor and who now live in alarming conditions. They are undernourished, and hunger threatens the lives of the refugee children. Moreover, until 14 October 1999, around 212 children under 5 years who were in Noelbaki and Naibonat village camps as well as in the yard of GOR Oepoi and the KONI building in Kupang were found to have died. In the refugee camps in Atambua, Belu Regency, around 100 children under the age of 5 were found to have died as a result of ISPA and diarrhoea. Also, based on NTT Regional office of the Department of Health up to 10 October 1999, 9,927 children under the age of 5 are ill. 1,965 a malnourished.

The instances of deaths amongst children under the age of five have occurred because of malnutrition, diarrhoea, ISPA as well s the lack of medicines. Aside from that, the hospital or clinic is located far from the refugees. Health posts which have been set up by the local Health departments are not sufficient to deal with the number of sick children. Resources are limited, both in terms of medicines and equipment as well as medical staff.

Rainy Season, Diarrhoea and Dengue Fever Since the rainy season broke in Timor on Monday 11 October 1999, thousands of children under five are now threatened with an outbreak of diarrhoea and dengue fever. In TTS Regency for example, the Komnas-PA Investigation Team found 160 5 year-olds who were at risk from diarrhoea and dengue fever. According to data gathered by the St Theresia diocese in Kefamenanu, 3,000 toddlers camping in tents in Naen village, Kafemenanu, TTS Regency are under threat from diarrhoea and dengue fever.

Aside from that, around 265,933 refugees are forced to sleep in flooded areas. Those who up until now were taking refuge under emergency tents provided by the NTT Social Affairs Department offices, as well those sleeping in huts covered with foliage, have had to move on and try and find more secure locations. Areas thought to be safe from flooding are very few.

According to information from the Health Post Medical Team, up until 14 October 1999, the children who are located in the GOR Oepoi and KONI building in Kupang have all lost weight. Many are also suffering from diarrhoea since Kupang town was flooded. According to Komnas-PA investigation, aid in the form of food, milk and rice flour which was given by a number of organisations for the refugees in the KONI building refugee camp as well as a number of other areas, has yet to reach the refugees. Moreover, a number of refugee families have refused assistance because it is not considered to be appropriate for the youngest children. Also, a number of children have suffered from diarrhoea since eating food provided.

Children Who Have Lost Their Families and Adoption Komnas-PA met with 35 children within the age group of class 1-3 at elementary school (SD) at the offices of an NGO in Atapupu, who were suffering from severe stress and trauma. This was due not only to the fact that they are the witnesses to acts of violence and the destruction of their homes in Bumi Loro Sae, but also because they have lost their families. It is also the case, according to the investigation by Komnas-PA, that in general, the children in the refugee camps are suffering from severe stress and trauma. In another case, in the last few weeks around 40 children between the ages of 5-12 have left Kupang towards Denpasar and Jakarta flying with Merpati.

According to a Komnas-PA source in Kupang, it is not clear who was organising these children’s departure and why they left NTT. What is certain is that children under the age of 12 in NTT should be prepared because young children are very vulnerable to the current climate of economic and sexual exploitation.

A source from the NTT Regional Offices of the Department of Social Affairs has stated that there are many requests for the adoption of children. However, the source told the Komnas-PA Investigation Team that permission for adoption had not yet been given. However, over the last two weeks the people in Kupang have heard the news that in practise, the adoption of the children is done with the administrative payment of Rp.25,000 per child. However, when Komnas-PA traced the news regarding the adoption, it found enough proof.

Social Envy Another problem is that the refugee camps are mostly located in poor areas. The potential for social envy is very great in such areas. This is because in general, the refugees who are assisted by the Department of Social Affairs received help in the force of rice and money in the form of as much as Rp.1,500 per day. Meanwhile, the local residents do not receive any assistance.

Acts of Violence A new problem which is developing in the refugee camps is that of violence. According to a Komnas-PA source, on Sunday 4 October 1999, a number of pro-integration paramilitaries who are concentrated in the Betun kampung, Atambua, refugee area attacked and killed an NTT youth, Tarcicius Kalu. Tarcicius died after having been burnt alive by a number of Mahidi paramilitaries. This case began when the local Betun youth got fed up with the attitude of an East Timorese refugee, Pedro da Silva Baros, who harassed the young women of Betun. A verbal exchange turned into a fight.

A little while later, Pedro returned along with between 10-21 refugees who were carrying automatic weapons, swords and crowbars. On seeing the strength of his opponents, Tarcicius turned and ran away. However, Tarcicius was apprehended and beaten and then set alight at the refugee camp hall/offices, which was witness by thousands of children.

Other acts of violence have taken place in Naibonat camp. A youth from Noelbaki refugee camp which is not far from Naibonat camp, went to Naibonat camp because he had fallen for a young woman at that camp. When he arrived at the camp, a number of youths at Naibonat who were offended by the arrival of a refugee from Noelbaki camp attacked him. The children who were looking on were shouting “kill him, kill him.” Eventually the young man died at the hand of the Naibonat youths.

Based on such violent actions, children who normally do not have any activities to occupy them in the refugee camps, now have a tendency to and are vulnerable to being encouraged to take part in similar acts of violence. If this state of affairs is left unheeded, then the children will become used to the practice of committing acts of violence in the future.

Humanitarian Aid Based on the investigation by Komnas-PA in the 6 refugee areas, it is clear that government aid which has been disbursed to the refugees is oriented towards adult needs. Help in the form of counselling with the aid to deal with psycho-social problems of the children aged 2-12 has not been thought about and has been severely neglected. As a result, the social and civil rights of the refugee children which should be protected in accordance with the Convention of the Rights of The Child have been ignored. Humanitarian aid in order to deal with psycho-social problems is urgently needed and of the utmost priority. If the children are not given assistance, then they will grow without focus and ignorant.

Komnas-PA Recommendations Based on the results of the investigation which was carried out over a period of 4 days, 11-14 October 1999, the National Commission for the Protection of Children concludes that as a result of the armed conflict and the destruction in Bumi Loro Sae, thousands of child refugees are experiencing severe stress, trauma, have lost their families and are suffering from the trauma of violence. Not many of the organisations which are in Timor have given their attention to the psycho-social problems of the children, their stress and trauma.

The issue of psycho-social problems as a consequence of acute stress and trauma experienced by the child refugees, particularly through the loss of family members, has yet to receive the attention of those organisations which are concerned with the East Timorese refugees in NTT. If their problems are not addressed forthwith, then the children may become a generation bent on revenge, apathetic and criminal, as they have themselves experienced.

Thus, based on the support of a number of government organisations, NGOs, religious organisations and UNICEF in Kupang and Atambua as well as with the support of the NTT mass media, it is agreed that a PSHYCO-SOCIAL CLINIC for the refugee children is urgently required. The clinic will be established with three main areas of work, namely:

Trauma Centre The Trauma Centre will be established in three areas outside of the refugee area, namely in Kupang, Kefamenanu, TTS Regency and Atambua, Belu Regency. The Trauma Centre will be established especially to aid the recovery of children who are experiencing severe stress and trauma and will work together with the church and the local clinics.

Play Therapy Bearing in mind that the world of the child is the world of play, this activity will be carried out in an on-going manner directly in the refugee camps and by setting up a playground area. Activities will include games, telling stories, painting and other activities. Through these activities, it is hoped to speed up the process of identifying children who are suffering from stress and trauma.

Transitional School In order to return their self-confidence, this school will be set up in the refugee area. The curriculum will tend toward play, in the actualisation of reading and maths exercises.

In order to prepare the expertise in order to carry out the above activities, Komnas-PA together with local institutions will carry out a Training for Trainers programme for NGO activists, teachers, volunteers, social workers, Sisters and medical staff. Training will be carried out in three areas, namely Kefamenuna, Atambua and Kupang. Komnas-PA will work together with UNICEF and UNHCR in order to act as facilitators as well as to deploy special teams in the trauma centres.

Aside from this, based on the authority which has been given to Komnas-PA, Komnas-PA recommends that:

The government pay attention to the children’s problems, in whatever form, in order that all the basic requirements of children may be met. This includes assistance to aid their psycho-social recovery. In respect of the psycho-social condition of the children, the Department of Education and the Department of General Works must establish playgrounds and facilities for a transitional school for the children throughout the period that they are refugees. In anticipating the rainy season, and the spread of illness and disease such as diarrhoea and dengue fever, the Department of Health must provide healthcare facilities and sufficient medicines for all refugees. Ask that the INTERFET forces guarantee the safety of all the East Timorese people who choose to return to Bumi Loro Sae. Ask and implore the Armed Forces and the Police to take all action necessary to prevent the trade in children – economic or sexual exploitation

Jakarta 18 October 1999 National Commission for the Protection of Children (Komnas-PA) Investigation Team

Seto Mulyadi Arist Merdeka Sirait Head of Komnas-PA Head of the Investigation Team

Shinto B Adelar Chris Mboeik Association of Indonesian Psychologists Suara Pembaruan Journalist

Titik Wasiat Ayom Journalist

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