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Nuns help repatriate Timor Leste refugees

Indonesian forum still helping refugees return 12 years after thousands fled their homes

Former East Timor refugees return to their homeland Former East Timor refugees return to their homeland
  • Fransiskus P. Seran, Atambua
  • Indonesia
  • February 1, 2011
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A nun-initiated organization in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province has helped repatriate 25 refugee families to Timor Leste, 12 years after they fled their homes.

Thousands of people fled Timor Leste in 1999 following a UN-sponsored vote on independence.

Many are still living on the Indonesian side of the border.

The Woman and Child Care Forum which has helped repatriation efforts since 2000, by providing spiritual guidance, assisted a total of 71 people to return home from Atambua, the capital of Belu district, yesterday.

“They must have a strong will to return home, because they will face various challenges like having no jobs or homes,” said Sister Sisilia Anak Agung from the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit congregation, the forum’s founder.

Supported by a Netherlands-based NGO, members of the forum accompanied by local government officials and military personnel led the East Timorese refugees to the border. There they were welcomed by relatives and East Timorese officials.

One East Timorese refugee, Joao De Araujo, thanked the forum for their help. “The forum has made the move easy. When I get to my hometown, my family and I will replant the land we left in 1999,” he told ucanews.com.

Last year the forum helped repatriate 225 East Timorese refugees.

Related report
Why money alone won’t solve Timor Leste’s problems

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