Subject: AFP: Security tightened at East Timor refugee centre

Agence France Presse January 14, 2000, Friday

Security tightened at East Timor refugee centre

DILI, East Timor, Jan 14

The UN refugee agency said Friday it had increased security at its refugee transit centre here as tensions rose over the return of alleged pro-Indonesian militias.

"During the last seven days we have seen a higher number of Timorese alleged to be former members of the militia return to East Timor and the first known case of a community refusing to re-integrate several families," Paul Stromberg, of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told journalists Friday.

He said members of three families were beaten up last Monday when they tried to return to their Dili neighborhood.

"One person has a badly swollen eye. The others were verbally abused," he said.

The families were now in a type of "safe house," Stromberg said.

Refugees returning to Dili are initially housed in the Don Bosco transit centre near the airport before they are moved to their home villages.

Stromberg said tensions have risen at the transit centre as young men loiter outside trying to identify who is inside.

The refugee agency has placed more security guards at the centre, which resembles a large shed. The guards are supported day and night by soldiers from the International Force for East Timor, Stromberg said.

"We've had to intervene on several occasions in the past week," he said.

The UNHCR is working with the National Council of Timorese Resistance to explain to people it is not siding with militia when it helps return and protect them, he said.

Almost 130,000 East Timorese have now returned to East Timor since a September campaign of murder, arson and forced relocation of the populace to Indonesian West Timor.

The campaign by militia backed by the Indonesian armed forces followed East Timor's August 30 vote for independence from Indonesia.

Among the returnees last Monday were nine East Timorese former Indonesian soldiers who returned without incident, under UNHCR escort, to the eastern town of Los Palos, Stromberg said.

it/kw/jd

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH

LOAD-DATE: January 14, 2000


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