Repatriation stumbles with no camp access
3 November 1999
East Timor - As of November 1, 1999 the combined total of organised and spontaneous returns by air and by sea has reached 36,841 (24,168 organised and 12,673 spontaneous). A new ferry return route has opened in order to increase the overall pace and effectiveness of the return operations from West Timor to East Timor. Two ferries now operate from the West Timor port of Atapupu to Dili in East Timor. Organised sea returns between Kupang and Dili will continue. Although repatriation has been a steady course of action with the displaced East Timorese population, the majority of returnees have come from limited regions within East Timor. Armed militias operating with West Timor has made it impossible for the UNHCR to expand its operations to other camps in West Timor. On Friday October 29, 1999, the UNHCR called for full access to camps in West Timor. Although UNHCR has been able to conduct repatriation from West Timor, it has only limited access to the camps because of the presence of the militia groups. Those who have returned to East Timor have come primarily from refugee centres within the church compound as well as the government controlled facilities in the West Timor capital of Kupang. After that series of repatriation, the number of returnees has dropped substantially. On Monday October 1, 1999, approximately 300 refugees were waiting for transit, down from a peak of 4,500 several days ago. A second transit centre has been opened in Atambua, from there refugees are escorted to Atapupu and then on to Dili. UNHCR staff are arranging for assistance programme at Oekussi in the Ambeno enclave. The authorities believe an average of 300 refugees return daily but the bulk of the estimated 50,000 residents there remain in the surrounding hills in West Timor. The security situation in the countryside of East Timor has improved. Most major routes have been classified ‘green’, with the exception of routes to Suai, within Kova Lima district, which still require military escort.