UNHCR closes office in Timor-Leste, ending 12 year operation

Briefing Notes, 13 January 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahečić to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 13 January 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Yesterday saw a ceremony in Dili, Timor-Leste, marking the closure of UNHCR's office there, after 12 years of operations in assisting refugees and other displaced people. The ceremony was held at the presidential palace.

UNHCR opened its office in Timor-Leste in May 1999. Violence surrounding the referendum on Independence from Indonesia, held in August that year, saw nearly a quarter of a million people fleeing to neighbouring West Timor. UNHCR helped 220,000 people to return home and assisted in reconciliation efforts. Thousands of returnees were assisted with the building of new homes. Building materials were flown by helicopter to remote regions.

In 2006, following a subsequent emergency, UNHCR rushed emergency help to 150,000 people, displaced internally by violence, looting, and arson.

During yesterday's ceremony tributes were paid to three UNHCR staff Samson Aregahegn, Carlos Luis Caceres-Collazo and Pero Simundza who were killed during violence in Atambua, West Timor, in September 2000.

UNHCR's regional office in Bangkok will now take on the job of working with the government and civil society in Timor-Leste to protect refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

For further information on this topic, please contact: