Timor-Leste: UNHCR emergency relief operation spreads to those outside Dili

Briefing Notes, 16 June 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 16 June 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has stepped up its emergency relief operation in Timor-Leste and has started reaching out to tens of thousands of people who fled violence in Dili for surrounding areas outside the capital. Official estimates now indicate that there are more displaced people outside the capital (78,000) than those in the various settlements in Dili (69,000). In total, some 1,000 tents have now been delivered to the displaced in various locations.

Over the last two days, UNHCR has delivered 200 large tents to families camping in makeshift shelters of palms, leaves and tarpaulins near a Timorese army base at Metinaro about 40 minutes east of Dili. More tents are in the pipeline for delivery once these have been pitched. The some 350 families at Metinaro who left Dili are originally from the eastern districts of Baucau, Vikeke and Los Palos but have lived in Dili for 10 years or more. They fled several weeks ago when their houses were targeted by people originally from the west of the country. They have set up camp near an army base of soldiers from the east.

UNHCR is continuing its assessments of areas outside of Dili and is liaising closely with other agencies to identify the needs of displaced people. Further information on the tens of thousands of displaced outside of the capital is needed before a response is finalised.

Meanwhile in Dili, families have moved into the newly established camp at the airport, where some 330 tents have now been pitched. UNHCR continues to identify additional parcels of land to be cleared in order to accommodate the 400 families who require tents at the site. Lights are already installed in the ablutions area, and electricians are working on lighting the camp. Australian troops are conducting regular patrols. At the national stadium, where a new camp is being established, 170 tents have been pitched and planning for the installation of services continues. At Don Bosco College, an existing encampment which is being improved, 72 tents have been pitched and a new location has been identified for a further 24 tents.

While the situation appears to have stabilised somewhat on the streets of Dili, we are still concerned for the physical security of people in the makeshift camps and settlements, particularly at night. We welcome the increased patrolling of foreign troops in areas where displaced people have gathered and are continuing to press for a boosted security presence.

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Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.5: The Emergency Operation Reaches Out

In mid-June UNHCR extended its emergency relief operation in Timor-Leste to include tens of thousands of people who fled violence in the capital Dili for districts in the countryside. An estimated 79,000 displaced people are in outlying districts with some 72,000 displaced in Dili.

The UN refugee agency has delivered shelter materials and emergency supplies to easterners and westerners in Hera village, 25 kilometres to the east of Dili. Most of the inhabitants of Hera are westerners and have fled their homes and taken to the hills. A smaller group of easterners have moved to the safety of a fenced naval compound, where they have been joined by easterners who fled Dili. UNHCR has also delivered shelter materials to Metinaro, 40 minutes outside of Dili, as well as to Auturo Island.

Despite sporadic violence, UNHCR continues to help the displaced who say they are still too scared to return to their homes and will wait in temporary shelters until the crisis ends.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.5: The Emergency Operation Reaches Out

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.1: Recent Violence

June 2006

Recent violence in Timor-Leste has displaced about 100,000 people, with 65,000 sheltering in 40 squalid encampments in the capital, Dili, and a further 35,000 taking refuge in the countryside. A UNHCR assessment team visited the makeshift camps in Dili end May and reported the most critical humanitarian needs, aside from security, were food, clean water and shelter.

In a phased response to the crisis and as part of a joint UN effort, UNHCR deployed an emergency team to reinforce staff on the ground and is now airlifting in urgently needed supplies for some 30,000 displaced. The first flight, which arrived in Dili on June 5, brought 14 tonnes of lightweight family tents, plastic sheets and jerry cans from UNHCR stockpiles in Jordan.

UNHCR and its partners will use these items to establish new, planned camps for the displaced, where they can live in better conditions and assistance will be easier to deliver, until the security situation improves and they can return to their homes.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.1: Recent Violence

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.4: UNHCR Sets Up Camps

With the first wave of UNHCR's air and sea operation to rush relief supplies to Timor-Leste completed, the focus is now on improving the living conditions of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) living in crowded, unsanitary makeshift camps around Dili.

Many of the 69,000 displaced in Dili have told UNHCR they prefer to stay near the makeshift sites where they feel safe. In response, UNHCR has begun searching for additional sites around these areas to clear ground, pitch tents and decongest the existing makeshift shelters. Not all makeshift sites are suitable for expansion, so UNHCR is moving ahead with the establishment and planning of new sites.

UNHCR has sent an assessment team to the countryside where some 78,000 Timorese have sought refuge. Many displaced are staying with relatives, while others are sheltering in huts, offices, church building and spontaneous camp sites. We are now delivering assistance to some of these people.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.4: UNHCR Sets Up Camps