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UNHCR Refugees Daily News Summary

UNHCR - Refugees Daily

Note: The following summary of refugee news has been prepared by UNHCR from publicly available media sources. It does not necessarily reflect the views of UNHCR, nor can UNHCR vouch for the accuracy or the comprehensiveness of the information provided.

EAST TIMOR: INSECURITY STILL HINDERS AID 24 Sep. 99 – Continuing insecurity in East Timor is seriously hampering the humanitarian operation for thousands of displaced people, despite the arrival of foreign peacekeepers, reports BBC News. UN aid agencies are warning that help is urgently required outside Dili, but cannot be provided until the area is secure. Yesterday, aid workers drove a trial run food convoy to Dare, in hills near Dili. It consisted of two unescorted, commandeered trucks – UN vehicles have not yet been shipped into East Timor. Kyodo reports WFP said Indonesian soldiers seized two of the four trucks. The Sydney Morning Herald adds the UN is trying to speed up its food drops from aircraft as relief agencies rule out a mass food and medical distribution in Dili, fearing it would trigger a refugee stampede. Dili is already swamped with tens of thousands of displaced people. About 25,000 people are camping in squalid, makeshift shelters along Dili's waterfront. Refugees say they are too scared to move back to their homes. Meanwhile, two Australian and French aircraft dropped food to Timorese refugees on Wednesday and yesterday. Meanwhile AP reports aid officials yesterday urged a speed-up in relief shipments to East Timor before the impending rainy season grounds aid flights and bogs down roads. [Timor relief operation under threat – http://news.bbc.co.uk; Indonesian army seizes relief trucks in E. Timor – www.kyodo.co.jp; Dili stampede fears spur hinterland aid – www.smh.com.au; Aid groups urge relief shipments before rainy season – www.ap.org]

INDONESIA: EAST TIMORESE ABUSED, KILLED -AMNESTY 24 Sep. 99 – Thirty-five East Timorese refugees were killed and their bodies dumped overboard from a ship carrying them to West Timor, Amnesty International said today, reports AFP. Amnesty has documented human rights violations against tens of thousands of East Timorese, including other unconfirmed killings of refugees on boats. It said independence activists continued to be hunted down. In Kupang and Atambua, the Aitarak militia were regularly checking camps, houses and local hotels for human rights workers and pro-independence supporters. "Militia and members of the Indonesian army continue to intimidate, threaten and attack the displaced East Timorese with total impunity," Amnesty said. Refugees were also facing intimidation, threats of arrest and constant military surveillance in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bali and Flores. Amnesty called on the international community to step up pressure on Indonesia to allow assistance and protection for East Timor refugees. AP adds independence leader, Jose Alexandre Gusmao, said a major operation to evacuate East Timorese refugees from Indonesia would start next week. Darwin, Australia, has been told to expect another 2,000 refugees, the Northern Territory government said. It appealed to other countries to take in refugees. [Amnesty says 35 Timorese were killed on refugee ship – www.afp.com; East Timor leader pushes for evacuation of refugees – www.ap.org]

INDONESIA: EAST TIMORESE 'DEFENDERS' THREATEN 24 Sep. 99 – Pius Pati, a "refugee" from East Timor living in a squalid camp in Kupang, says that as a "defender" of integration with Indonesia he is prepared to kill foreign aid workers, reports AFP. "We don't want foreign journalists and NGO activists to visit us because they always make trouble and their movement has been politicised and tends to divide the people," Pati said. "If necessary we can kill them," he added as a Red Cross (ICRC) mission toured the camps to try to find out what they needed. Noelbaki camp, which used to be a bus station, now shelters 17,000 refugees including Pati. Dressed in the trademark black T-shirt and khaki pants of the feared Indonesian army-backed East Timorese militia who waged a reign of terror after the August 30 independence vote, he called himself the "top" refugee in the camp. He said there were about 2,500 pro-Jakarta "defenders" in refugee camps around Kupang, and said he wanted to return to East Timor only if it remained a part of Indonesia. Fernando Felipe, 43, a refugee with four young children, said he wanted to take advantage of an Indonesian government offer to settle 100,000 of the East Timorese who have flooded into West Timor, moving them to another island. AFP adds Human Rights Watch welcomed an agreement between UNHCR and Indonesia to allow the UN safe access to refugee camps in West Timor. The agreement is expected shortly, it said. [Militia threaten aid workers in West Timor + UN to be given safe access to West Timor camps: US rights group – www.afp.com]

ENDS

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