More than 5,000 additional Timorese have fled to internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps over the past month or so because of the recent violence in the capital Dili, although this is now under control as more United Nations police are patrolling the streets, top UN officials said today.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General Atul Khare, head of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), said the security situation in Dili over the past week has “remained stable,” adding there are now more officers in high-risk areas as well as dedicated mobile units watching out for gang-related violence.
The head of UN humanitarian assistance in Timor-Leste, and the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Finn Reske-Nielsen, said most of the 5,000 or so people who fled to the IDP camps arrived last week because of the disturbances, adding that four new camps had been set up.
“We have…an estimate as of early January that there were approximately somewhere between 25,000-29,000 people in the camps in Dili. And as I mentioned over the past month, we have seen an increase of more than 5,000 and that would be the figure,” he told reporters in the capital.
Reiterating that rice shortages were a contributing factor to last week’s violence, Mr. Reske-Nielsen said the Government, supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), were continuing the sale of rice that was begun last Friday.
Last month, the Security Council extended UNMIT’s mandate for another year until February 2008, while adding up to 140 extra police officers to help counter the increasing violence as the tiny nation gears up for this year’s elections.
The Council created UNMIT in August 2006 to help restore order after deadly fighting, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, broke out in April and May and caused the deaths of at least 37 people and forced about 155,000 others – or 15 per cent of the population – to flee their homes.