Japan ends humanitarian airlift in West Timor

A Japanese airlift of UNHCR's relief supplies from Surabaya on the Indonesian island of Java for East Timor refugees in West Timor ended on Tuesday.

A C-130 aircraft of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force made a final flight on Tuesday. The mission, which departs for Japan on Wednesday from Surabaya, is composed of a 156-member support team and three C-130's, including a backup.

Since the start of the airlift on 29 November, the planes flew 47 rotations, transporting 402 metric tons of relief supplies. Over 24,000 family kits, comprising plastic sheeting, buckets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, soap and sleeping mats, were offloaded in Kupang. The family kits will benefit an estimated 120,000 refugees.

The planes also transported aid workers and equipment for UNHCR, WFP, ICRC and Care International.

The airlift was part of a Japanese response to a UN inter-agency consolidated appeal for funding of the East Timor emergency operation. UNHCR has expressed appreciation for the airlift, which proved to be a valuable contribution to its emergency activities for the refugees in West Timor.

More than 250,000 people from East Timor fled to West Timor and other parts of Indonesia in the violent aftermath of the 30 August 1999 vote for independence in East Timor. Of this number, nearly 134,000 refugees have returned to East Timor under a UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme.