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Timor: Indonesian army patrols intermittent only

Briefing notes

Timor: Indonesian army patrols intermittent only

17 October 2000

Since 1 October, 466 East Timorese refugees have spontaneously returned from the camps in West Timor. While the spontaneous returnee figures represent a small increase over the last two months, the numbers are far below the pre-August figures when UNHCR staff in West Timor were organising return movements.

Most returnees continue to trickle back from the Haekesak-Turiscai salient of West Timor, heading to communities around Maliana. During the week, some refugees reached the river crossing with the help of low-level militiamen who carried their personal effects.

Returnees from the Sikutren camps told UNHCR that the Indonesian Army (TNI) patrols the area only in the mornings, and that as soon as they leave, militia gangs filter back into the camps. One group of returnees said that they had tried to leave their camp a week ago, but were turned back by militia. Some returnees said that they had to escape their camps at night on foot, leaving most of their belongings behind.

A church agency in West Timor reports that its staff constantly meet refugees who want to return. The religious workers report that East Timorese refugees approach them in secret asking about security and reconciliation efforts in their homeland.