Subject: AN: UNHCR's Role in West Timor Praised


October 25, 2003 12:17am Antara

Atambua, E Nusa Tenggara, Oct 23 (ANTARA) - The people of Belu district in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara recognise the role of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in helping them lessen their burden since September 1999.

"The Belu people admit that this UN agency has been able to lessen their burden because of the coming of thousands of East Timorese refugees. We hope the UNHCR can still help empower the villagers here," Vice Chairman of Belu district legislative assembly Blasius J.Manek said here Thursday.

Since the end of 1999, the UNHCR has facilitated the repatriation of the East Timorese refugees so that the local people can re-manage their lives like before the coming of the refugees, he said.

Following the implementation of the UNHCR-sponsored re-settlement project for the ex-refugees here, the locals could use their land, which had been occupied for refugee camp locations, for agricultural activities, he said.

"We hope the UNHCR can finish their re-settlement program in several villages here before this year's Christmas or New Year of 2004 so that our people, both locals and ex-refugees, can celebrate the festivities happily," he said.

The East Timorese people fled to East Nusa Tenggara from their homeland to escape devastating rampages, which broke out shortly after the UN Mission in East Timor (Unamet) announced the UN-organised ballot return in September 1999.

The plebiscite paved the way for East Timor to secede from the republic as the consequence of the pro-independence faction's victory in it.

More than 250,000 refugees had once taken refuge to the Indonesian province, but most of them had returned to East Timor under the UNHCR and Indonesian government's repatriation programs.


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