East Timor: UN mission chief welcomes 200,000th refugee to return home

East Timor: UN mission chief welcomes 200,000th refugee to return home

As more East Timorese refugees headed home from West Timor, Indonesia, today, the head of the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET), Sergio Vieira de Mello, travelled to the border town of Batugade to symbolically welcome the 200,000th returnee.

In pouring rain, Mr. Vieira de Mello, accompanied by a representative of Dili Bishop Filipe Ximenes Belo, addressed the returnees, providing them with words of encouragement and an assessment of the overall situation in East Timor.

After his speech Mr. Vieira de Mello distributed 150 teddy bears provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to the returning children.

Close to 500 refugees crossed the border from West Timor on Wednesday, the latest of nearly 3,500 refugees who have returned to East Timor from refugee camps in West Timor since the beginning of April, compared with the 4,000 that returned in March, the highest monthly total in two years.

UNHCR attributed the current upsurge in returns to East Timor's presidential elections on Sunday and independence celebrations next month.