Wed, 13 Aug 2003

275 Javanese families return to N. Maluku

SURABAYA: At least 275 displaced migrant families from the once conflict-wracked province of North Maluku were finally sent back to the region on Tuesday from East, Central and West Java.

They traveled to North Maluku aboard the Taruna Sakti ship from the Tanjung Perak port in Surabaya, East Java.

At least 223 families had fled to East Java, 43 others to Central Java and nine more to West Java, when their province was hit by a violent religious conflagration that erupted in 1999.

The refugees, most of whom were originally from Java and had migrated to Maluku years ago, said they decided to return because they were no longer afraid of more attacks by rival gangs.

"I want to go back there to make a living. In Java, I get less income than in North Maluku," said Sudirman, a migrant from Bondowoso regency in East Java.

The repatriation was funded by the Central Java and East Java governments. Each of the returning families received 35 kilograms of rice per day for months and a life insurance policy that is good for one year.--JP