Timor: security review before more convoys
UNHCR is concerned about Indonesia's plans to cut off aid to an estimated 100,000 East Timorese refugees remaining in West Timor unless they make up their mind by March 31 on whether to remain in Indonesia or go back to East Timor. Assistant High Commissioner Søren Jessen-Petersen, who visited both East and West Timor this week and met with several Indonesian ministers in Jakarta, told the Indonesian government that UNHCR was very much in favour of early return. But he said the March 31 deadline may force people to take a decision which they are not prepared to take yet or which they cannot take freely because of continued intimidation by anti-independence militia.
The Indonesian officials assured Jessen-Petersen that they would be flexible in enforcing the deadline. They also promised to do more to neutralise ex-militia who are believed to be intimidating East Timorese in West Timor camps, preventing them from going back home.
An estimated 150,000 East Timorese have gone back since UN rule was established in East Timor last fall. Many have gone back spontaneously and many have been flown or shipped or trucked back in a large-scale repatriation effort mounted jointly by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Some 100,000 East Timorese remain in West Timor. Half of them are believed to be willing to go back.