Timor: UNHCR closes Betun office in West Timor
UNHCR has closed its office in the West Timor border town of Betun and withdrawn its three international staff there. The closure of the UNHCR sub-office on Wednesday followed a series of security incidents instigated by pro-Indonesian elements opposing repatriation of East Timorese refugees. In the latest incident a week ago, former East Timorese militias beat up a refugee and stole the belongings of some returnees at a border checkpoint outside Betun as 70 Indonesian soldiers stood by.
Earlier last week, ex-militias stoned the UNHCR office in Betun, injuring a staff member and damaging its premises and vehicles. The incidents were among several last week that prompted UNHCR to call off a programme to register an estimated 125,000 East Timorese in West Timor.
Registration is not only important in determining the number of refugees but also essential in continuing assistance in the camps. During a two-day meeting in Denpasar this week, UNHCR reviewed with representatives of other UN agencies and aid organizations our relief activities in West Timor. The Geneva-based Director of UNHCR's Asia bureau, François Fouinat, attended the Denpasar meeting. Over the last 48 hours Mr. Fouinat has been discussing with Indonesian officials and diplomatic representatives in Jakarta UNHCR's concerns in West Timor and proposals to resolve the continuing problems there. These centre on the maintenance of law and order in the camps, separation of ex-militias, former soldiers and police from refugees and clarification of the status of East Timorese in the Indonesian army and civil service. The review of the West Timor operations will continue in Geneva upon Mr. Fouinat's return next week.