Subject: UNHCR to keep aiding Timor refugee repatriation

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

UNHCR vows to keep aiding Timor refugee repatriation until December

JAKARTA, Feb 19 (AFP) - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has pledged to keep helping with the repatriation of East Timorese refugees from Indonesian West Timor until the end of the year, a UNHCR spokeswoman said Tuesday.

"Yes, we will be continuing our assistance until the end of the year, December," said Kemala Ahwil.

She said the level of aid would be less comprehensive than previously and would mainly be focused on an information campaigns to promote repatriation and on assisting the journey home.

Across the border in East Timor, the UNHCR will conduct similar information campaigns to prepare for returns and provide refugees with basic aid packages containing essential food, some equipment and nursery crops for planting, Ahwil said.

"The campaign in East Timor is to make the people there aware of the need to accept their fellow East Timorese wishing to return home," she said.

After the August 1999 independence vote in East Timor, pro-Jakarta militias embarked on an orgy of violence there. As international peacekeeping troops began arriving, the militias either led or forced an estimated 250,000-270,000 people across the border into West Timor.

The UNHCR in cooperation with other UN agencies and the government has already helped the repatriation of some 200,000.

With three months to go before East Timor attains full independence, many of the rest are still reluctent to go home. Some were formerly pro-Indonesian militiamen and their families.

Others formerly worked with the Indonesian administration in East Timor. Jakarta relinquished its authority over the territory it annexed in 1976 to the United Nations in October 1999.

Cash-strapped Indonesia is keen to be rid of the refugees and has halted its aid to them from this year. However, it has not closed the dozens of squalid camps.

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