Timor: Increase in returns expected
UNHCR expects an increase in the number of refugee returns from the Indonesian province of West Timor to East Timor. Today, around 100 East Timorese returned through the border crossing at Suai; on Monday the returnees numbered 350 at the Batugade frontier. On Wednesday, UNHCR is facilitating the return of 67 people from the West Timor camps at Naen, Oelbinose and Wini-Ponu to the East Timor enclave of Oecussi. The number of returns to Oecussi has been relatively low - two or three people per day - and Wednesday's anticipated returns are regarded as significant and could lead to a larger repatriation movement. Several factors could prompt more returns. East Timor leader Xanana Gusmão is on a three-day visit in West Timor to promote reconciliation and the return of an estimated 70,000 East Timorese still in the Indonesian province since the outbreak of violence in East Timor that accompanied the vote for independence in August 1999. The Indonesian government is also providing repatriation grants and has announced it would stop assistance to the refugees at the end of the year. Nearly 190,000 East Timorese have returned to East Timor since October 1999.