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Corrections officers to go to East Timor

Twelve prison officers and four managers are in training to go to East Timor at the end of April, Matt Robson, Minister of Corrections announced today.

After this weeks training a final selection of ten officers and two managers will be made. The final list will be announced next week.

The New Zealand Corrections officers will spend three months in East Timor helping to establish and run local prisons, as well as training East Timorese prison officers.

"The need is urgent. At present there are only two prisons and they will be full to capacity. However there are no skilled staff to deal with prisoners," said Matt Robson.

"Our New Zealand officers will be advising and assisting in the development of the prisons system."

"It'll be a tough job under difficult conditions. But these are some of the best prison staff in the country, and they will have the full support of the UN and other organisations on the ground in East Timor." Their security will be provided by the excellent United Nations peacekeeping force which of course includes our New Zealand contingent.

The Corrections officers have spent the week training with the army on vehicle management, first aid and defence techniques, and also with the police.

"We want our officers to be fully equipped with all the information and basic defence techniques they may need. Security has been restored, but East Timor is a country in ruins and in the process of re-building itself. We want our officers to be prepared for that.

"I am proud that New Zealand officers have been so keen to help the people of East Timor get back on their feet. Funding for the scheme has come out of my overseas aid budget, which I was able to direct towards East Timor as Minister of Overseas Aid," said Matt Robson.

ends

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