East Timor: UNHCR reports upsurge in refugee returns from West Timor

East Timor: UNHCR reports upsurge in refugee returns from West Timor

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There has been an upsurge in the number of East Timorese returning from camps across the border in West Timor, Indonesia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced.

There has been an upsurge in the number of East Timorese returning from camps across the border in West Timor, Indonesia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced.

Close to 2,000 refugees have returned to East Timor so far this month, compared with 1,300 since the beginning of the year, UNHCR said. Interviews with returning refugees indicate the increase can be directly attributed to the many reconciliation meetings and "go-and-see" visits facilitated over the past few months by the agency and its partners, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Transitional Administration (UNTAET).

An estimated 70,000 refugees still remain in West Timor, according to UNHCR, which is organizing the repatriations along with IOM and other groups. The agency said it hoped to maintain and improve upon the momentum of recent weeks in the period immediately before and after East Timor's 20 May independence.

Meanwhile, East Timor’s Constituent Assembly today adopted the last of the amendments to the draft constitution. The final approval of the complete document, including the preamble, is expected to come in the next few days.