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Timor: Ambeno incident fuels returnee fears

Briefing notes

Timor: Ambeno incident fuels returnee fears

26 November 1999

Around 2,500 refugees returned overland to East Timor today - 401 through the Motaain-Batugade crossing and 1,821 from Betun to Suai. So far, more than 103,000 refugees have returned from West Timor since UNHCR and IOM began a repatriation programme in October.

Only about a hundred people returned today to East Timor's Ambeno enclave which is located in northern West Timor. There was an incident along the Ambeno border, at Oesilu, on Wednesday in which two men were reportedly beaten up while bringing some assistance for their families who had returned from West Timor. We are looking into the details of this incident because, apparently it has caused apprehension among refugees along the border areas.

There have been some positive developments since the setting up on Monday of the Joint Border Commission by the Indonesian military and the International Force in East Timor to increase the pace of repatriation. For example, UNHCR has been allowed to establish a presence during the day in three major camps in the Kupang area, which are controlled by militias. These are Tua Pukan, Noelbaki and Naibonat, which host more than 20,000 refugees. Since Tuesday, our teams have been going to these three camps, with trucks and police and military escorts. But only a handful of people have been repatriated from these camps.