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Another Refugee Camp Established

Issue No: 77; 3 October 2000

A refugee camp for evicted farmers has been established in Vanua Levu.

A report in today's Daily Post states that the National Farmers Union's Labasa branch has established the camp at Valelawa about 60 km from Labasa town. The camp shelters farmers whose leases have not been renewed by the Native Land Trust Board.

At present, there are 10 families in the camp. The camp organiser estimates that there will be 45 families in the camp this year. The camp is on freehold land.

The NLTB, according to the Post, stated: "We are sympathetic about the whole thing". It stated that between 1997 and 2000, 975 leases were to expire.

Leases began expiring in 1997. The SVT government then had devised a resettlement scheme for evicted farmers. These schemes were in Deuba, and in Navudi (about 20 km inside from Seaqaqa). The locations selected were either too remote or the land were found unsuitable for commercial agriculture. Numerous developed plots were not taken up by anyone. The average cost of resettling an evictee was $28,000.

The Peoples Coalition decided that the evictees should be given a choice of resettlement by the state or a cash rehabilitation grant of an equivalent sum spent by government on resettlement with the proviso that those opting for the resettlement grant would relinquish any further claim to state assistance for resettlement.

The Qarase regime has shelved the cash resettlement grant scheme, though it had made a $5m provision in its mini-budget for this. It also doesnot have any resettlement plan on the ground either.

It is expected that a majority of cane farmers whose leases are expiring will be forced to stay as refugees in this country.

END

3 October 2000.


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