Indonesia: Tsunami victims still in shelters

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Forty-year-old Fakhrudin is busy fetching water from a hole he dug in the ground in which he placed a used plastic paint bucket connected to a large tank by a plastic pipe not far from his living quarters.

"I have to place the bucket in the ground as a temporary receptacle because water will not flow to higher ground," Fakhrudin told The Jakarta Post.

Fakhrudin, who re-married soon after the tsunami, lives with his wife and two children in a temporary shelter in Bakoy village, Aceh Besar regency.

"I lost my first wife and three children in the tsunami five years ago. Only one of them survived," he said.

The shelter, known as the Bakoy barracks, is where people displaced by the tsunami and still waiting too receive new homes are housed. They come from shelters that have been demolished by the government because the number of houses built for tsunami survivors across Aceh is theoretically sufficient.

"We lived in a shelter in Lhong Raya in Banda Aceh previously, but we were asked to move here because we don't have a house. The government said it wanted to use the land the shelter was built on," he added.

Fakhrudin was given a house in Labuy village in Aceh Besar several months ago by an international relief agency.

"We can only move to our new home in the next few months because we are still waiting for water and power installations," he said.

However, not all the shelter residents are as lucky. "There are several reasons why many people are still here. Many of them are still waiting for housing aid from relief agencies and some of the houses which were allocated to them have been taken by people who claim to be tsunami survivors," Fakhrudin said.

Bakoy barracks resident Anu Muziani is currently embroiled in a legal struggle to get back the house she was allocated. Together with 97 other families whose homes were also seized, she lodged a complaint to various agencies, including the Aceh Reconstruction Continuity Agency (BKRA), an agency formed to continue the unfinished work of the Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR).

The BRR had said the affected families would receive homes in Labuy village, Neuhen, Aceh Besar, a designated area for displaced families without land and rented houses following the tsunami.

However, when they were about to move to their new homes, they were shocked to find the houses were occupied by other people.

"We didn't know who they were or whether they were people displaced by the tsunami," Ani said.

The families were forced to return to Bakoy and have been there since, engaged in a long battle to get back their houses.

Ani's group claimed they were entitled to the houses because they passed the BRR verification process. The BRR stipulates that people who are categorized as tsunami survivors are entitled to housing assistance.

According to Ani, the people who seized their homes were not included in the list issued by the BRR, which states that those entitled to housing assistance were residents living in temporary shelters torn down by the government and those displaced by the tsunami and have passed the BRR verification process and been categorized as aid recipients.

"Although we have filed our complaint to various groups, we are not sure when we will get the houses allocated to us," said Ani.

BKRA spokesman Juanda Jamal said his office was working to resolve the issue with the local administration. "Based on the BRR list, the squatters have no right to occupy the houses. We urge the local administration to seek a fair solution," said Juanda.

Juanda added the number of houses built by the government and aid agencies far exceeded the demand from tsunami survivors, but his office was unsure as to why many displaced people still lived in shelters.

"Many displaced people have lost their rights to the houses because many survivors received more than one house," he said.

The latest BRR data showed that 139,195 houses were destroyed in the tsunami and the agency built 140,304 houses across the province in the past five years.

- JP/Hotli Simanjuntak