Timor: repatriation programme at a standstill
The repatriation programme from West Timor has practically come to a halt. Only a few dozen people have registered to return to East Timor over the past week. The refugees say they are concerned about their security, pointing to increasing reports of harassment and intimidation of people who are suspected of having collaborated with the Indonesians. The refugees in West Timor are also worried that if they go back now they may not have enough food until the next harvest.
While UNHCR shares the refugees' concern about security, it should be noted that 160,740 refugees have returned to East Timor, largely without major problems, since the UNHCR-IOM repatriation programme began in October. UNHCR is organising more go-and-see visits for refugee leaders to enable them to have a firsthand look at the situation in East Timor. In a related development, UNTAET has ordered the arrest of people carrying machetes in Dili, and the arming of the UN civilian police, following gang violence over the weekend, in which five people were injured.