Displacement from East Timor: Has it Finished or Not?Saturday, March 5th, 2011
These are the words of Agus, one of the ‘new residents / former displaced people from East Timor’, who was resettled on land of the Social Department in Naibonat, Kupang, West Timor, speaking about his reasons for wanting to return to Timor Leste.
He is not the only one. During JRS Indonesia’s visit to the displacement camp which still exists in Tuapukan-Kupang, as well as to various resettlement sites in Kupang, Atambua and Betun, land ownership was an issue that was brought up regularly in conversations. Farmland is the biggest concern as the majority of people who fled from East Timor to Indonesia in 1999 are farmers. The difficulties in finding farmland have increased over the last few years.
Local residents, who in the past lent their land to be worked by displaced people from East Timor using a harvest sharing system, are now increasingly reluctant to lend their land as they want to use it themselves or sell it.
Based on our conversations with Nato, a staff member from the Centre for IDP Services in West Timor, an organization accompanying the new residents, it seems that difficulties concerning farmland are encountered in nearly all of the settlement sites.
Resettlement and transmigration were the alternatives given in 2002 when the Indonesian government decided the problem of displaced people from East Timor was solved. In reality “resettlement” in itself brought new challenges.
One resident of the Raknamo settlement in Kupang explained that they had to buy the land themselves and then the house would be built by the Indonesian military. He said the land is mutually owned by local residents and ‘new residents’.
New residents have paid a deposit but have not been able to pay the balance as they are waiting for their living allowance (jadup/jaminan hidup) which the government promised would be handed out in 2002, but which until now has still not been received. In his opinion, if the land is not paid off this might cause conflicts between local residents and new residents.
The majority of the resettlement sites in Belu district, West Timor are located far from main roads and access to drinking water, adding to a challenging situation for the new residents who chose, or in some cases were forced, to move to these settlements.
Another complaint was that the government’s decision to move them to settlements was made without consulting the community. They felt “herded like water buffalo”, and access to farmland was not even considered by the government when choosing a settlement site.
The condition of the houses in the settlements, which were built through collaboration between the social department and the Indonesian military, is in itself a cause for concern. Many residents feel unsafe living in them and so return to the camps.
The temporary shelters in the camps, made from bebak (woven palm leaves) are already falling apart but they feel safer there. At least near the camp farmland is easier to access and drinking water is provided.
So it is no wonder that more and more people want to return to Timor Leste. In 2010 about 119 people returned to Timor Leste.
According to Sister Sesilia Ketut, SSPS from the Caring about Women and Children Forum (Forum Peduli Perempuan dan Anak) who is assisting the return process, by 31 January 2011 already 71 people had returned to Timor Leste. Sister Sesilia predicts that during 2011 this number will rise.
A visit to Cornelis in Sukabitete, Atambua supported Sister Sesilia’s prediction. Cornelis said confidently, “In July I will go back home. When my first child finishes her school, I will tell her to go directly back to Timor Leste.”
It seems the “new residents” formerly displaced from East Timor and the Indonesian government have very different perspectives. Mr Jon from the social department’s settlement in Naibonat, Kupang, West Timor put it like this, “It is said that we no longer have the status of ‘pengungsi’ (displaced person) but if we look at the reality on the ground there are many people still living in displacement camps. People say the government of Timor Leste, the Indonesian government and the UN have stated that the problem of displacement is solved. This is political engineering. Please look at what the situation is really like. If it is solved, say it’s solved, if not, then say it’s not.”
This last request is a challenge to all parties involved or concerned in this issue. The answer is only one word, “solved” or “not”, but it requires opening your heart to answer honestly, and being ready to take responsibility for whatever follows your answer.
(Indonesia) Paus Fransiskus berulang kali mengunjungi para pengungsi, menyapa mereka dan mendorong kepedulian terhadap mereka. Ia bahkan pernah memboyong tiga keluarga pengungsi Suriah ke Vatikan. Bagaimana pandangan dan ajaran Gereja terkait pengungsi? Continue reading
If we, as a human family, insist on only ever seeing refugees as a burden, we deprive ourselves of the opportunities for solidarity that are also always opportunities for mutual learning, mutual enrichment, and mutual growth. Continue reading
Yogyakarta, 20 November 2014 – The Jesuit Refugee Service observes with deep sadness yet another sudden retroactive change in the policy of Australia towards people seeking international protection in Southeast Asia. Yesterday, the government of Australia announced its decision to … Continue reading
Together with the Community of United Volunteers Yogjakarta, JRS Indonesia took part in the emergency response in Kelud. The Community of United Volunteers Yogjakarta, comprised of a diverse group of individuals and students from Yogyakarta, work together in humanitarian disaster response, being present and providing support in the form of accompaniment, counseling activities or delivering urgently needed goods. JRS Indonesia provided funds to support the operational and expenditure of urgently need goods, also presence in the field for two days, on February 26-27, 2014. Continue reading
Celebrating 33 years of being with and serving refugees, JRS would like to encourage you to extend your hospitality and support to our brothers and sisters that are here to seek protection. Continue reading
“It’s not enough to give a sandwich if it isn’t accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one’s own two feet. Charity that does not change the situation of the poor isn’t enough. True mercy, which God gives and teaches us, calls for justice, for a way in which the poor can find a way out of poverty.” Continue reading
The Jesuit Refugee Service joined together with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and representatives of a number of faith-based organisations to call for greater protection for refugees.
The multilingual, 16-page declaration, known as an Affirmation of Welcome, is the first to involve UNHCR and a spectrum of faith-based organisations. Continue reading
In May 2013 JRS supported the SUAKA Diplomat briefing on the situation of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Indonesia. SUAKA and JRS participated in a Focus Group Discussion at the National Human Rights Commission discussing and promoting Indonesia’s ratification of the convention on the status of Refugees and its protocol. SUAKA continues to provide legal advice and accompaniment to Asylum Seekers during the RSD process mostly referrals from JRS. Currently a more comprehensive referral system is developed in a collaboration of JRS and SUAKA. Continue reading
It was Sunday evening of 9 September 2012. Twelve African men were walking toward a rather big shop in Cipayung. They were some asylum seekers from Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. Their destination, a place on the third floor of that … Continue reading
Yogyakarta, 14 November 2011 – 31 years is not short measured on a lifetime. After a 31 year journey JRS is proud of the heritage of spiritual insights from Pedro Arrupe who arouse the concern of people for the refugees. This year, JRS Indonesia celebrated its 31st anniversary in many simple ways. Continue reading