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Breakthroughs achieved on East Timor returns

Breakthroughs achieved on East Timor returns

In a breakthrough development, UNHCR reported that supporters of anti-independence militias are among recent refugee groups returning home from West Timor. A second breakthrough saw the first returns of children separated from their families during the 1999 exodus.
18 September 2001
More than one million Afghan refugees have fled to Iran, after years of war and drought. Image courtesy of BBC.

DILI, Sept. 18 (UNHCR) - Supporters of anti-independence militia groups were among two groups of East Timorese refugees who have returned from West Timor since September 10. "The return of these groups to East Timor would have been unthinkable just months ago," said UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski. The refugees have been in camps in West Timor since 1999, when they fled East Timor following an August 1999 referendum on independence. According to UNHCR staff on the ground in East Timor, the returnees did not encounter any problems on arrival in the UN-administered country. The two groups of returnees totalled more than 1,000, the highest weekly total in weeks according to UNHCR.

In a separate development, UNHCR reported that it had arranged for the return of eight separated children from east Java to East Timor on September 15. The children, who became separated from their parents during the 1999 exodus, had been placed in orphanages by the Indonesian government. Their return is seen as a breakthrough which could pave the way for the return of up to 1,200 separated children. UNHCR praised the Indonesian government for its co-operation on the issue.

More than 183,000 refugees from East Timor have returned home since 1999, but some 80,000 remain in camps in neighbouring West Timor.