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With rains approaching in Timor-Leste, top UN official urges displaced to go home

With rains approaching in Timor-Leste, top UN official urges displaced to go home

Warning that Timor-Leste’s rainy season will soon cause flooding and disease in the camps for people displaced by deadly violence earlier this year, the top United Nations official there reiterated his call for people to return home or go to emergency sites, while the head of UN Police confirmed security continues to improve.

“I want to take this opportunity to appeal to the mothers and the fathers in those camps – you do not want to endanger the lives of your children; you do not want to endanger the lives of the elderly; the sick; because what happens when you have flooding is that within a matter of days there will be outbreaks of disease,” Finn Reske-Nielsen, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste, told reporters in the capital Dili.

“The Government, with the support of the United Nations and humanitarian NGOs (non-governmental organizations), has prepared emergency sites to which IDPs (internally displaced persons) can move, and should move, as soon as possible in order to avoid the outbreak of disease when the rains come.”

Violence, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, erupted in April and May after the firing of 600 striking soldiers, a third of the armed forces, and it claimed at least 37 lives and drove 155,000 people, 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes.

The Security Council created the expanded UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) in August to help restore order in the country and since then officials say the security situation has much improved, with UN Police (UNPOL) taking over full responsibility for policing earlier this month and putting more of its officers on patrol.

Eric Tan, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Security Sector Reform Rule of Law in Timor-Leste, said the security situation in the capital Dili continues to improve as UNPOL steps up patrols and arrests those responsible for any disturbance.

“The overall situation in terms of security in Dili is what I would classify as improved. The biggest series of incidents, or category of incidents, would be clashes between gangs… UNPOL is stepping up measures to watch for this and to take preventive actions if possible,” he told reporters.

UNMIT Police Commissioner Rodolfo Tor also described the security situation in Dili as “relatively calm,” over the past week, as he outlined measures the force was taking in the weeks ahead.

“We plan to implement increased presence and visibility of police in the city; to increase mobile patrols in the evening, foot patrols in the day time and security check-points in hotspots of the selected areas. We plan to increase consultation with the community, or neighbourhood policing, as well as consultations with other stakeholders,” he told reporters at the same press conference.