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Timor: government pledges camp improvements

Briefing notes

Timor: government pledges camp improvements

16 May 2000

Indonesian officials today told East Timorese refugees the government will improve distribution of food rations and basic services in the camps in West Timor. About 100 refugees gathered peacefully in front of the governor's office in Kupang protesting irregular food rations and demanding improved camp conditions.

The protesters were among 500 refugees living at the Gor sports stadium, which the government wants to clear to allow the holding of boxing competitions. The refugees have to move out to Sulamu and Noelbaki camps, unless the government assures them that conditions in these facilities will be improved.

On Monday, several hundred East Timorese set out from three main refugee camps in the Kupang area for a protest march to demand improved conditions but were dispersed peacefully by police in the outskirts of the city.

In another development, a total of 267 East Timorese refugees were scheduled to sail later today from the West Timor province capital of Kupang for Dili in East Timor. This is the first repatriation by ship to Dili since 28 April, when the pace of returns began to slow down sharply.

Overland on Monday, 132 refugees joined the UNHCR-IOM repatriation convoys from the border towns of Atambua and Kefamenanu, bringing the total number of returns since October to more than 161,000. The rate of returns remains extremely low.