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Timor: militia members returning?

Briefing notes

Timor: militia members returning?

14 January 2000

There has been a significant rise this week in the number of Timorese returnees who have asked for UNHCR's help before going back to their home areas and facing their communities again. During the last seven days we have also seen more repatriations of Timorese alleged to be former members of the militia. We've also seen the first known case of a community refusing to reintegrate several returnee families.

Between end-October and end-December, UNHCR mediated 51 separate cases of people who were reintroduced to their community after reconciliation meetings. Twenty-seven of these were in Dili and follow-up visits have shown that all of these were successful. In the last seven days alone, 18 cases have been handled.

On Monday, however, a neighbourhood in Dili refused to accept the return of three families and three individuals to the area, alleging that both the men and women were active in the militia. UNHCR and its partners are working on the cases.

With the increased numbers of alleged militia members returning, we have seen a rise in tension at the Dili transit centre, with young men hanging around the entrance, trying to identify any Timorese moving in or out. UNHCR has put on more security guards, backed up by a 24-hour INTERFET presence, at the transit centre to ensure that returnees are not harassed. We have had to intervene on several occasions in the past week to make sure that returnees' basic entitlements and rights are respected.

Working with IOM, we had two repatriation movements today (Friday). A ship with 400 returnees bound for Dili and an overland convoy with 227 people from Atambua in West Timor to Motaain in East Timor. The total number of returnees since October 8 now stands at 129,032.

Also today, UNHCR launched a daily radio programme in Bahasa (Indonesia's main language) and Tetun - the main indigenous language of East Timor. The 30-minute programme will be aired twice a day on seven local radio stations in West Timor.