Timor Emergency Update
After surveys by Interfet troops, UNAMET announced that several more of East Timor's roads may be travelled without military escort. In addition to the Dili-Baucau link, which was declared safe last week, the Dili-Liquica, Dili-Ermera, Baucau-Los Palos, Baucau-Viqueque, and Los Palos-Viqueque stretches have now been rated "green". In other developments outside Dili, visits by medical teams to the Suai region have revealed a growing need for medicines and other relief supplies. The opening of the Suai airport in order to airlift aid is a priority, and flights are to follow as soon as the security situation allows.
UNHCR is sending another team to Manatuto tomorrow, Thursday, to check reports that thousands of displaced people are working their way back to the town 53 kms east of Dili. A mission to the town Monday, 11 October, found very few of the 12,000 former inhabitants had returned. Manatuto is located close to a stronghold of the former pro-independence Falintil militia and was heavily damaged during the violence. After aid workers found the town largely deserted earlier this week, information has now reached UNHCR that thousands of displaced may be trekking back to their homes from nearby hills. 1,000 plastic sheetings were left Monday with church leaders in the town; more will be delivered tomorrow.
In addition to the three regular return flights tomorrow from Kupang, two flights each carrying almost 300 East Timorese each are scheduled to arrive in Baucau from Kupang and Jakarta. A Lockheed L-1011 will bring back returnees from West Timor, as well as from the Indonesian capital. Some East Timorese were reportedly deported to Jakarta. Thursday's group of 300 would be the first of an estimated 5,500 people currently in Jakarta. The flights will be operated jointly by UNHCR and IOM. Baucau will be used as the destination because the Komoro airfield in Dili is not suitable for the 299-seat Lockheed L1011.
The UNHCR office in Dili was reinforced by another four international staff members on Wednesday.
UNHCR is planning the first land repatriation to East Timor in the next few days. 100 returnees will be escorted to the border from the West Timor town of Atambua by Indonesian troops, where international peacekeeping troops will take charge of the convoy.
UNHCR's regional representative has travelled to East Timor from Jakarta and will be at the border along with other staff to oversee the operation. For the third consecutive day, three flights departed Kupang Wednesday carrying East Timorese back to Dili. The 289 returnees lifted the total since the operation began on 8 October to 1,230 in 13 flights.