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

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.