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Timor Emergency Update

Timor Emergency Update

28 September 1999

East Timor

Two flights a day are arriving in Dili from Darwin as part of UNHCR's airlift, bringing in emergency aid and shelter supplies which are in great demand after departing militias left much of the capital and other towns in ruins.

So far UNHCR has shifted 65 metric tons of relief supplies to East Timor. The aid includes plastic sheeting, jerry cans, blankets, kitchen sets and soap. Telecommunications and office equipment have also been airlifted to Dili for the seven UNHCR offices planned in East Timor.

The five UNHCR staff members presently in Dili and staff from other agencies are planning for a possible mass return of displaced people to the capital and other towns. UNHCR is also preparing for the registration of people returning to their homes, information that will be vital to determine the number of missing and those taken to West Timor or elsewhere in Indonesia.

The security situation outside of Dili remains a problem, with helicopters being the only way to reach much of East Timor.

Another five UNHCR international staff will reach East Timor by the end of the week. UNHCR is planning to open seven offices throughout East Timor as the security situation improves.

West Timor

The Governor of West Timor Tuesday morning met in Kupang with the U.N. inter-agency mission. The UNHCR-led mission said local officials believe that 60% of the estimated 230,000 East Timorese in West Timor want to go back. Neither figure could be independently confirmed.

During the hour-long meeting the Governor said his priority was to assist and shelter the displaced people in West Timor. He said it was too early to discuss the return of East Timorese, though he said he was not opposed to this.

The mission, which includes staff from WFP, UNICEF, OCHA and several NGOs, on Monday visited two sites of displaced Timorese near Kupang. At Panti Social, where the government is helping 1,200 displaced, some of the people told the mission they wanted to return to East Timor.

The mission also visited Noel Baki, outside of Kupang, which accommodates 4,000 mostly anti-independence Indonesians who left East Timor. It was in Noel Baki that UNHCR staff were attacked by an angry mob earlier this month.The brief visit Monday went without incident.

Between Kupang and Noel Baki, in the village of Tua Pukan, the mission saw huts being constructed for around 30,000 displaced Timorese.

The mission intends to travel tomorrow, Wednesday, to the border town of Atambua where more of the displaced Timorese are concentrated. UNHCR has five staff members in West Timor at present with more on their way.