Claims refugees unable to return to E Timor

United Nations officials estimate that more than 100,000 East Timorese refugees still camped in Indonesian West Timor are unlikely to return to their homeland.

More than seven months after they fled militia violence after an independence vote, the refugees claim East Timor is unsafe and there is not enough food.

More than 150,000 refugees have returned to East Timor but now only a few hundred cross the border from West to East each day.

Those who remain behind complain that East Timor is still too dangerous.

Pro-Jakarta militia groups are still active in the refugee camps and clearly they and their families could be targets of revenge attacks if they return.

But they continue to spread stories of killings and starvation in the East so others will stay.

International organisations have tried to counter the claims with evidence of refugees returning safely to their homeland.

But officials working for the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees say 70 per cent of those still in camps will remain in West Timor or be resettled elsewhere in Indonesia.

=A9 1999 Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Australian Broadcasting Corporation