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Timor: go-and-see visit success

Briefing notes

Timor: go-and-see visit success

21 January 2000

UNHCR conducted another look-and-see visit for Timorese refugees on Wednesday, bringing two people from Bakatieu camp near Betun, in Belu district, back to Suai and Ainaro to speak with local leaders and the population. One of the individuals was a well-known pro-autonomy figure. He had indicated that many pro-autonomy advocates or former militia would like to repatriate but are frightened by rumours of insecurity in East Timor.

The pair were able to meet with the UNTAET district administrator and six Timorese who, it was rumoured in the camps, had been killed on return. The visits went very well. The refugees were warmly greeted by extended family and exchanged messages from other refugees. They were told that all East Timorese were welcome to come back, whether former militia or not, and that it was up to the new administration to handle individuals accused of criminal activity.

In West Timor, a joint-UNHCR/WFP/Govt. of Indonesia food assessment mission is returning today to Kupang after field visits in Atambua, Betun, Kefa, and Soe. The group examined the food distribution system for refugees and the situation and self-reliance mechanisms of the affected population. They are to report findings and recommendations to the government on Monday.

On the basis of their findings and the first UNICEF nutritional study (supported by UNHCR), the group is likely to recommend an increase and diversification of the food ration, as well as specific efforts to ensure that each refugee gets the intended amount. A second nutritional survey is planned next week for camps in Kupang and the Kefa area, south of Oecussi.

The total for returns to East Timor through last night stands at 130,460.

On the number of refugees remaining in West Timor: The Indonesian Government is presently using a figure of 156,000. UNHCR's working figure is 100,000-110,000,and we estimate that about half of those people will likely repatriate from West Timor in the coming months.