UNHCR objects to Indonesia's registration plans, demands more access to East Timorese in West Timor
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday expressed deep concern about Indonesia's plans to register East Timorese in West Timor without international involvement and supervision and demanded full access to the refugees.
"In the interest of the displaced population and the credibility of the return operation, UNHCR must have unhindered access to all displaced persons, whose decisions must be based on internationally-confirmed expression of free choice," said High Commissioner Sadako Ogata.
UNHCR said it was concerned since the government registration exercise includes asking the East Timorese whether they want to remain in West Timor, return to East Timor or go elsewhere in Indonesia. UNHCR said under the current circumstances there is not even a minimum guarantee that the people can answer freely.
UNHCR said it sent a letter to the Indonesian government, protesting against the registration plan.
The Indonesian government says some 230,000 East Timorese are currently in West Timor. UNHCR fears that many of them have been taken to West Timor against their will by anti-independence militias who continue to intimidate East Timorese refugees living in squalid camps in West Timor.
UNHCR welcomed Indonesia's decision last weekend to allow East Timorese to return home with UNHCR's help. UNHCR hopes to start airlifting East Timorese back home within days.