Subject: AFP: UN refugee agency winds down mission in West Timor

UN refugee agency winds down mission in East Nusa Tenggara

JAKARTA (AFP): The United Nation's refugee agency said Thursday it will soon close its humanitarian mission in West Timor or Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), where refugees fled (sic) after the 1999 self-determination polls in East Timor.

The mission in East Nusa Tenggara, which was started in 2001, will wind down on December 31, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) deputy regional representative Henrik Nordentoft told AFP.

"Special circumstances demonstrating an ongoing need for international protection and assistance for refugees no longer exists," Nordentoft said.

An estimated 250,000 people fled or were forced to flee from East Timor to NTT during the violence that surrounded the August 1999 UN-sponsored referendum that saw the East Timorese vote for independence.

The majority have since returned to East Timor, and around 16,000 people have opted to remain in Indonesia.

Nordentoft said that the Indonesian government has provided citizenship for them and assistance to resettle in East Nusa Tenggara or other Indonesian provinces.

Militia gangs, which the UN has said were recruited and directed by Indonesia's military, went on an arson and killing spree before and after the 1999 ballot.

They killed about 1,400 independence supporters and laid waste to much of the infrastructure on half the island, which was abandoned by its colonial Portuguese master before Indonesia invaded it in 1975.

East Timor gained full independence in May 2002 after more than two years of United Nations stewardship. (***)

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