Timor Emergency Update
With another three flights today, a total of 1,820 people have been airlifted from Kupang to Dili so far aboard 19 UNHCR flights.
Local authorities in Kupang have agreed to a UNHCR proposal to set up a transit and processing centre for returning East Timorese. The site will be installed on an unused fairground on the road between the town and the airport.
Returnees will be shuttled from West Timor camps to the centre, where they will be registered and spend the night before proceeding to the airport for repatriation to East Timor. The facilities will have a capacity for several thousand people at a time. UNHCR began discussions today with NGOs on the organization of the site.
UNHCR has finished moving Timorese out of Assumption Church, the first site emptied. Staff say that refugees continue arriving in Kupang from Atambua, and candidates for return come forward even after a count in a particular camp has been completed.
Besides organizing transport for relief supplies to Atambua camps which hold an estimated 230,000 East Timorese, UNHCR has given aid items to Médecins Sans Frontières for distribution in the Kefamenanu area, around 150 kms east of Kupang.
In Atambua, an overland return to East Timor is still on hold pending the result of an investigation of the clash between Interfet troops and Indonesian police Sunday, 10 October.
Two more UNHCR international staff arrived in Kupang today, bringing the total to 14 in West Timor.
Two flights carried 344 East Timorese back to Baucau today from Jakarta. On its second day of operation, the airbridge operated jointly by UNHCR and IOM returned a total of 175 families to the island.
Many of the returnees to Baucau are from other towns along East Timor's northern shore, including Dili. The UNHCR office in Baucau reported that only around 80 passengers from today's flights had left the town by the end of the day due to a lack of transport. Most of yesterday's first group of 278 returnees moved homeward today by their own means after spending the night in an unused school converted into a transit facility. UNHCR has four international staff in Baucau overseeing the repatriation.
In Dili, people returning daily from West Timor continue to be reunited with relatives at the town's stadium and proceed quickly to their houses. UNHCR staff said only one family remained in the stadium this evening. The returnees told aid workers that they would put up their temporary shelter in the transit centre and were hoping to locate relatives tomorrow.
The town's main market was reopened today after Interfet and aid agencies repaired much of the damage done to structures during the post-referendum violence. Fresh vegetables, coffee, soap and other small goods went on sale immediately.
With activities slowly returning to normal in the capital, UNHCR staff say that more and more families in Dili are beginning to rebuild their homes. Wood and other building materials are in short supply.