East Timor: UN mission expects large refugee group to return from West Timor

East Timor: UN mission expects large refugee group to return from West Timor

The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) today said it expects about 2,000 East Timorese refugees to return from West Timor next week following five days of talks with refugee leaders.

The returns are scheduled for 12 September and will be coordinated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in conjunction with the UN Peacekeeping Force in East Timor and the Indonesian military, UNTAET said.

East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmão, the deputy head of UNTAET, Dennis McNamara, and UNTAET's Chief of Staff, N. Parameswaran - who conducted talks with refugee leaders in West Timor - are expected to be present at the border when the group crosses. The returnees will be met by district leaders and welcomed with a traditional ceremony.

The refugees, originally from East Timor's Ainaro District, were represented in the negotiations by Câncio Lopes de Carvalho, a former commander of the Mahidi militia in Ainaro. These negotiations have been undertaken in close consultation with community and national leaders in East Timor as well as UNTAET's Serious Crimes Unit.

In related news, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Soren Jessen-Petersen, is scheduled to pay a one-week visit to East Timor and Indonesia beginning next week, during which he will discuss the situation of East Timorese refugees in West Timor and UNHCR's role in supporting efforts to achieve durable solutions.