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Timor Emergency Update


Timor Emergency Update

18 October 1999

East Timor

Aid workers over the weekend reported widespread destruction and a growing danger of disease in East Timor's coastal town of Suai located on the shores of the Timor Sea. An estimated 45,000 people had fled to the surrounding hills during violent attack by anti-independence militias. They are now trickling back to their shattered homes but the scarcity of drinking water poses a high risk of disease. Medical reports from Suai speak of skin problems and malaria.

The security situation across East Timor is improving gradually. Humanitarian agencies have now received a green light from the Australian-led Interfet peacekeeping troops to establish a presence in the towns of Liquica, Manatuto on the Banda sea as well as Los Palos. However humanitarian access to many areas in the extreme east of the island, as well as areas bordering on West Timor remains very limited.

West Timor

A total of four flights today, Monday, brought 382 people from Kupang to Dili and Baucau. This brings the grand total of those repatriated on the airlift to 2,686. Another 933 East Timorese have been flown back from Jakarta on aircraft operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Later this week, two boats with a joint capacity of 3,100 passengers will join the return effort from Kupang to Dili. The first repatriation by boat is expected to take place as early as Tuesday.

UNHCR staff in Kupang are working on the establishment of a processing centre for refugees wishing to return to East Timor. The facility is not scheduled to open until this coming Wednesday, but the news of its imminent opening has already spread in Kupang and people have been coming to the site to check when they can be flown home.

Refugees will be bussed to the centre, registered and given a medical check-up before departure. Once it has reached its full capacity, the centre will be able to process thousands of people in a single day. UNHCR staff in Kupang say the local authorities have been very co-operative and helpful in the establishment of the centre.