Timor: returns slowly increase
More than 500 East Timorese crossed the border into East Timor on Monday. Today, another 500 refugees are sailing from Kupang in West Timor, bound for Dili in East Timor. More than 156,200 refugees have returned to East Timor since the UNHCR-IOM repatriation programme began in October.
Since the rate of returns slowed down in late December and early January, the number is slowly increasing to a daily average of 400 last week. One of the factors is uncertainty in the camps in West Timor as a result of the government's announcement that assistance will be stopped at the end of the month. UNHCR continues to discuss this issue with Indonesian officials. The Indonesian government has lived up to its responsibility in helping the refugees. UNHCR hopes this will continue. While UNHCR is committed to helping provide assistance to refugees, it does not have the resources the Indonesian government has in dealing with the problem.
In East Timor, there are hopeful signs that life is returning to normal in many villages. Returnees in general have integrated without too many problems, but there are also isolated security incidents involving returnees that are worrying.
On Saturday night in Dili, a group of men beat up two suspected ex-militia members who had returned a month earlier. A U.N. civilian police who came to the rescue was also beaten up. It was the first assault on a U.N. police officer in East Timor.