Remembering UNHCR colleagues killed in Atambua, West Timor, twenty years on
On 6 September 2000, three UNHCR colleagues were brutally killed in an attack on the UNHCR office in Atambua, West Timor.
This month, twenty years on, UNHCR continues to remember with heavy hearts the tragic loss of Samson Aregahen (Supply Officer), Carlos Carceres Collazo (Protection Officer) and Pero Simundza (Telecommunications Operator).
Together with fellow colleagues, Samson, Carlos and Pero had been working to help with the return of refugees to Timor-Leste (East Timor). The violence surrounding the referendum on independence from Indonesia in August 2000 led to nearly a quarter of a million people fleeing to West Timor.
Thanks to the vital work carried out by the UNHCR team in Timor, including the three colleagues, over 220,000 refugees were eventually able to return home to Timor-Leste and build the country into the independent state that it is today.
The incident in Atambua was, at the time, the worst ever single attack on staff in the history of UNHCR. Since then, attacks on humanitarian workers, including those working for UNHCR and partner organizations, have continued to take place.
In 2019, 125 aid workers were killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped, according to the Aid Worker Security Database. One in six UNHCR colleagues is serving in “high-risk” duty stations, in hazardous and conflict-ridden environments.
As we remember Samson, Carlos and Pero, UNHCR also pays tribute to all those who are honouring their legacy of serving and protecting the world’s forcibly displaced and vulnerable people, including in the most challenging places.