Subject: AN: Solving E Timor Refugee Problem Not Only RI`s Responsibility


Denpasar, Bali, March 24 (ABNTARA) - Solving the issue of East Timor refugees is not only the Indonesian government`s responsibility but also that of Portugal and the United Nations, an Indonesian official said.

Chief of the Indonesian Refugee Task Force Basyiruddin made the statement here Friday in relation to his planned meeting with Portuguese Ambassador to Indonesia Ana Gomes in the near future here.

The meeting will be focussed on the latest developments in the East Timor refugee problem, including their registration and repatriation to East Timor, Basyiruddin said.

The influx of East Timor refugees to the Indonesian territory following the August 30, 1999 plebiscite has been created a serious problem to Indonesia, he said.

There have been a total of 284,000 East Timor refugees accommodated in 52 camps in West Timor, some of which have been repatriated to their home land, Basyiruddin said.

At present there are a total of only 125,000 East Timor refugees awaiting their return to their birth places.

Portugal has so far extended only moral support to Indonesia in dealing with the refugees, the support of which is chanelled through the United Nations.

The Indonesian government has asked the Portuguese government`s serious contribution especially in the repatriation and registration of the refugees.

Indon-UN Cooperation

The Indonesian government and the United Nations have agreed on four steps to solve the East Timor problem.

Based on the agreement, Indonesia has agreed to open 11 gates along the East and West Timor border to help streamline the repatriation of the refugees.

As for the registration program, Indonesia plans to start registering the refugees beginning early May this year.

Basyiruddin stressed the importance of international support to the registration and repatriation program of the refugees.

However, the status of military alertness locally called "Siaga V", which has been imposed by the United Nations following the murder of three UNHCR officials last year, has inhibited some international bodies to extend assistance for the solution of the refugee issue.

A total of 1,600 people comprising members of non-government organizations (NGOs) and selected local residents have been named to carry out the refugee registration program.

Closer cooperation and coordination between Indonesian international bodies` authorities will help acelerate the solution of the refugee problems, Basyiruddin added.

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