Timor-Leste: Dili calmer, but protection concerns remain

Briefing Notes, 30 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 30 June 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Dili is a little calmer today following an incident-free night. While several thousand demonstrators from the eastern regions stayed in the capital overnight following yesterday's organized protests, there were no incidents reported, with international security forces keeping a tight lid of security. The 3,000 or so protesters on some 150 trucks have now left Dili and are on their way back to the eastern regions of the country.

Over recent days, a number of displaced people have been subject to intimidation and aggression by provocateurs, politically-motivated demonstrators and street gangs, and UNHCR protection officers continue to visit areas affected by the unrest. While the rapid response of Australian forces has helped contain hostilities, the feeling of insecurity among the displaced remains high, and there is no sense yet that people are ready to return to their homes. A critical element of UNHCR's protection strategy is ongoing and close liaison with international military and police forces for the physical protection of displaced people in the 56 makeshift encampments around Dili. Because incidents in a particular suburb impact upon nearby IDP sites, UNHCR has asked the foreign troops to also include a visit to any nearby IDP sites when they investigate incidents in the suburbs.

UNHCR welcomes the pending arrival of the Malaysian contingent of additional police forces over the coming week, which will boost the international police presence to 500 officers and contribute to an easing of problems at night. Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to distribute relief items to displaced people. To date, we have distributed over 1,900 tents to 20 sites in Dili and three sites just outside the capital in nearby Hera and Metinaro. In addition, a total of 1,428 jerry cans, 17,335 blankets and 2,523 plastic sheets have been given to people in various makeshift encampments. A second tranche of relief items, including 15,000 blankets, 850 tents and 30 plastic rolls, has arrived by air in Darwin, and is expected to arrive in Dili by ship on 4 July.

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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