Subject: LUSA: UN Continuing Efforts to Resolve Situation of Refugees in West Timo[r]

East Timor: UN Continuing Efforts to Resolve Situation of Refugees in West Timo[r] 19 Mar-19:20

The United Nations began this week a new campaign to resolve the problem of East Timorese refugees still in Indonesia's western half of Timor island.

The nearly 100,000 East Timorese were evacuated or forcibly deported to West Timor in the weeks after their homeland voted for independence from Indonesian occupation in Aug. 1999.

Efforts by various UN agencies are set to begin two weeks before a UN security delegation is scheduled to visit West Timor, to evaluate whether the area is safe for the return of international aid missions.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said Monday in Jakarta that the team was scheduled to arrive in West Timor on April 1.

However, a source at the Portuguese UN mission in New York told Lusa Monday that no decision had been made on either the security team's visit or the May 1 start of a planned program to register East Timorese refugees in West Timor.

UN and other international non-governmental organizations withdrew from Indonesian West Timor last September after three UNHCR employees were murdered in the border town of Atambua.

Indonesian authorities in the territory have been accused of failing to clamp down on militia gangs that harass refugees and hamper efforts to repatriate them to East Timor.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has requested authorization and security to take part in a joint awareness campaign set to begin in various West Timorese refugee camps by Thursday.

The campaign is being launched jointly by the Indonesian general responsible for West Timor, Willem da Costa, and the cabinet chief of East Timor's UN transition administration, Parameswaran. The aim is to inform refugees of "their options, encouraging them to return to East Timor".

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