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Timor: violence against UNHCR staff, operations suspended

Briefing notes

Timor: violence against UNHCR staff, operations suspended

23 June 2000

UNHCR staff continue to stay away from the three major refugee camps in the Kupang area since operations were suspended on Monday following a series of violent incidents in which UNHCR staff were assaulted over the weekend. These three camps host 25,000 of the estimated 100,000 East Timorese refugees in West Timor. We have requested Indonesian officials to put in place concrete measures to ensure the security of UNHCR staff and other relief workers before we resume working in these three camps. Meanwhile, some 180 East Timorese refugees left the West Timor port of Kupang today for Dili in East Timor in the first repatriation movement by boat in more than a month. Returns overland across the border have also slightly picked up, with around 1,000 East Timorese joining the UNHCR-IOM convoys over the past week. In recent weeks, we have stepped up go-and-see visits by refugee leaders to East Timor and this may have had positive results. There have also been visits in recent days by the Bishop of Baucau in East Timor and the Portuguese ambassador to camps along the border urging the refugees to return. Since last October, more than 163,000 East Timorese refugees have returned to East Timor, but since April repatriation had practically ground to a halt.