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Timor: highest number of returns in weeks

Briefing notes

Timor: highest number of returns in weeks

18 September 2001

Over the past week, UNHCR has helped more than 1,000 East Timorese refugees return to East Timor from the Atambua area of West Timor, the highest weekly number in weeks. On September 14, a total of 332 people arrived in East Timor followed by a group of 842 on September 14. Both groups included supporters of anti-independence militia groups whose return to East Timor would have been unthinkable just months ago. The group, which returned on the 14th, included supporters and one of the leaders of the Mahidi militia. UNHCR staff who handled the arrival on the East Timor side said those returning did not encounter problems upon arrival. In a separate development, UNHCR last Saturday managed to arrange for the return of eight separated children from east Java to East Timor, The children were separated from their parents during the 1999 exodus of East Timorese to West Timor and subsequently placed in orphanages by the Indonesian government. Their return is seen as a breakthrough, which could pave the way for the return of up to 1,200, separated children. UNHCR commends the Indonesian government for its co-operation on the issue.