Hundreds refugees from Timor-Leste staged a protest at the parliament building in Belu, East Nusa Tenggara province yesterday demanding the right to settle in Indonesia permanently.
The protesters waved banners and placards calling on the government to provide them with housing and plots of land.
Activists who joined the protest said the refugees, who fled Timor-Leste in 1999 because they did not support moves towards independence from Indonesia, deserved much better treatment than they are getting now.
We want the government to build better housing, provide land for farming, and schools, many of the activists said in their speeches yesterday.
Members of the Union of Catholic University Students of the Republic of Indonesia said the refugees have waited too long and received very little for their loyalty to Indonesia.
“We would like government officials to visit refugee camps and to do something real for our brothers and sisters,” said Johannes Guido Banusu, chairman of the union’s local chapter.
“For 12 long years they have lived in squalid refugee camps just to prove their loyalty to Indonesia,” he added.
Joao Pereira da Costa, a refugee, said he and many others have endured many years of hardship and feel Indonesia needs to more for them.
“We chose to live here, gave up our families, because we love this country. So, we have the right to be treated accordingly and get the chance to pursue a livelihood,” he said.