Jakarta (Fides Service) – There is optimism among international NGOs since the Indonesian government allowed International Organisation for Migration to make a fact finding mission to the northern Sumatra province of Aceh, where the army is trying to put down a separatist rebellion by the Free Aceh Movement GAM. The International Organisation for Migration supplies humanitarian aid to migrants and refugees in partnership with local governments. In Aceh it will collect information and monitor the situation of internally displaced persons in view of providing efficient aid.
Since martial law was imposed in May humanitarian organisations and media have been refused access to Aceh. Only small local NGOs can intervene with limited means and structures. These organisations asked Jakarta to allow more bodies to take care of the people, as the numbers of displaced persons continue to grow.
“The government has assigned 600 billion Rupees for humanitarian aid, but the problem is the quantity and the quality of this aid. Organisations with the specific objective of aid are not allowed to work here, says Father Janatra Sudri director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Aceh. “The people are afraid and the refugees are the victims of the conflict. I am very concerned about the situation. I hope we can intervene soon.” The JRS has a local office in the region from where it sees what is happening but to intervene it needs government permission and contact outside the province.
The Indonesian government fears the conflict will be internationalised if foreigners are allowed into Aceh as in East Timor, where a group of workers of the UN High Commission for Refugees were killed in 2000. In the meantime in Aceh the state of insecurity is such as to prevent even a minimum of social assistance. On July 19 medical volunteers were injured when a local Red Cross ambulance was attacked a few kilometres from Banda Aceh.
The local people continue to be the victims of the conflict which Jakarta warns will last until December. At least 18,000 families, some 80,000 people have already been displaced. 30,000 were able to return to their homes, most of them destroyed or severely damaged, but 50,000 are in still in government run camps. Many are leaving Aceh for other provinces in Northern Sumatra. The government has set up 49 temporary camps which have difficulty in housing the 50,000 and food, water and humanitarian aid is scarce and limited. PA (Fides Service 29/7/2003 EM lines 32 Words: 361)