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Timor: UNHCR emergency team flies to Dili

Briefing notes

Timor: UNHCR emergency team flies to Dili

17 September 1999

The High Commissioner travels to Indonesia today. She will meet with top-ranking officials in Jakarta. Arrangements are also being made for her to visit Kupang and Atambua in West Timor.

In talks with Indonesian officials the High Commissioner will raise UNHCR's concerns about the situation of East Timorese forcibly deported to West Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia.

Three members of a UNHCR emergency team flew into Dili today to organise relief efforts in East Timor as soon as this is feasible. The group flew into Dili on an ICRC aircraft which ferried 10 tons of high protein biscuits. While the humanitarian situation in East Timor is likely to improve dramatically with the deployment of peacekeepers and the arrival of many humanitarian organisations, the situation of East Timorese deported to West Timor causes huge concern.

Reports reaching UNHCR from the border town of Atambua say pro-independence Timorese who were forcibly relocated to West Timor are scattered in groups of up to 1,000 people in the hills. Conditions in the makeshift camps are appalling. There is no shelter, food and medicine. Water is a major problem. The dry season is at its peak and even in the best of times little water is available at this time. In such a situation there are deaths every day among infants, the sick and elderly. What is more worrying is the security situation. Militias are reported to be seeking out pro-independence activists and taking them away to an unknown fate.

Rice is available in Atambua. The government's existing rice supply is for two months, but transporting this to the hills is a problem. The militia have also commandeered trucks to ferry possessions looted in East Timor.