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Thousands face starvation in West Timor refugee camps

 Thousands of East Timorese people living in refugee camps in Nusa Tenggara, West Timor, are facing starvation, the Fides news service has warned. A month after a Jesuit Refugee Services delegation visited the region and expressed concerns over the length of time it was taking to repatriate refugees, Fides report that food supplies are now nearly exhausted. Although recent floods destroyed crops, the Indonesian government in Jakarta say they have no plans to resume aid, which was cut off at the end of last year. While around 20,000 refugees in Kupang have sufficient food, the agency said that 100,000 at Belu, near the East Timor border, have nothing and 15 have already died. More than 300,000 fled East Timor during the violent occupation of the territory by Indonesia. After the East Timorese voted for independence in a referendum in September 1999, the United Nations took over administration of the fledgling country with a peace force of 8,000 men from various countries in the region. Over the past two years the organisation has helped 170,000 East Timor refugees return home. But many still remain in West Timor. Independence is due to be declared on May 20, 2002, followed by presidential election.