Subject: AFP: Timor refugees fear return home over harassment reports: UNHCR

E. Timor refugees fear return home over harassment reports: UNHCR

GENEVA, May 2 (AFP) - The flow of East Timorese refugees signing up to be repatriated from camps in West Timor is "grinding to a halt" because of fears they could be harassed on their return, the UN's refugee agency UNHCR said Tuesday.

Most of those remaining in West Timorese camps -- 40,000 to 50,000 people -- were linked to the Indonesian government and feared possible reprisals once they return to East Timor , UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said.

"There's increased fear of reception in East Timor with reports of harassment of those returning to East Timor and being accused of being former collaborators of the Indonesian armed forces and militias," Janowksi told reporters.

"Essentially we are now dealing with the most difficult group of people. We're down to those people who were actually working either for the Indonesian government or were somehow involved with the Indonesian government," he added.

"Of course for them, return to East Timor is a very, very tough decision."

Only several dozen people have registered to return to East Timor over the past week, UNHCR said, adding it was organising "go-and- see" visits for some refugee leaders to get a first-hand look at the situation in the territory.

About 160,700 people have returned to East Timor since the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration began a repatriation programme last October.

Some 250,000 refugees fled or were forcibly deported to West Timor during a wave of Indonesian army-backed militia violence which swept East Timor in September after the territory voted for independence from Indonesia.

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