Subject: AP: U.N. refugee agency suspends work in three West Timor camps

U.N. refugee agency suspends work in three West Timor camps

06/20/2000 Associated Press Newswires

GENEVA (AP) - The U.N. refugee agency has suspended its operations in three of West Timor 's troubled refugee camps following a new series of violent incidents there, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The decision affects the Noelbaki, Tuapukan and Naibonat camps, which house a total of 24,000 people from East Timor, said Kris Janowski, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

"We will not resume our activities in the camps without additional security guarantees," Janowski said, adding that the incidents "point to a pattern of increased tensions."

UNHCR is demanding that "bad elements" inside the camps be separated from the rest of the refugees and the status of former Indonesian government and military employees there be clarified.

The agency has long urged Indonesia to do more to improve security in the camps, accusing militia members responsible for last year's campaign of terror in East Timor of harassing refugees and spreading false information about the situation across the border.

On Friday, an ex-militia member clambered aboard a truck repatriating refugees from the town of Betun and intimidated one refugee. A group gathered to block the vehicle and military escorts did little to intervene, Janowski said.

The same day at Noelbaki, nine refugees commandeered a UNHCR truck and forced the driver to take them to Kupang, West Timor 's provincial capital.

When agency staff tried to discuss the incident with refugee leaders at Noelbaki, they were threatened and prevented from leaving by an uncontrolled mob of 60-70 people, Janowski said.

An estimated 250,000 East Timorese fled over the border last year to escape violence from Indonesian troops and their militia allies who opposed a vote for East Timor 's independence.

The violence continued until international peacekeepers landed in East Timor on Sept. 20.

Since then, more than 165,000 refugees have returned from West Timor , according to the International Organization for Migration.

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