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Timor: tension continues in West Timor camps

Briefing notes

Timor: tension continues in West Timor camps

4 August 2000

Tension continues in the camps for East Timorese refugees in West Timor. Today, fighting broke out among the refugees at Tuapukan camp, outside the West Timor province capital of Kupang, forcing aid workers to stop food distribution and pull out. There were no reported injuries.

Yesterday, a man in an Indonesian army uniform demanded to be included among those receiving food assistance at Tuapukan. Camp leaders intervened and took him away. Also yesterday in the West Timor border town of Atambua, a man wearing a red and white bandanna (symbolizing loyalty to Indonesia and opposition to East Timor independence) came to the UNHCR office and started yelling in an obvious attempt to get a protest going. Police were called and the man went away.

At least 103 security incidents against aid workers and refugees have been recorded in West Timor since UNHCR began assistance programmes there in September. Because of deteriorating security in the last several weeks, UNHCR has been forced to undertake a cooling-off period and take a low profile in the camps although essential assistance continues. Since the shooting of a New Zealand soldier two weeks ago, UNHCR has temporarily stopped a repatriation programme to East Timor. UNHCR hopes to resume the programme next week. Some 170,000 East Timorese refugees have returned to East Timor under the UNHCR-IOM repatriation programme.