Afghanistan + 5 more

IOM press briefing notes 07 Feb 2003: Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire,Timor Leste, Afghanistan

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Spokesperson: Christopher Lom

KENYA - Registration of Ex-LRA Fighters Ends Tonight - Some 498 former combatants from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and their dependants, including abducted women and children, have registered with IOM to return to Uganda from Kenya.=A0

The registration, which ends tonight, is being carried out in collaboration with the Ugandan and Kenyan authorities and the Ugandan Amnesty Commission. It aims to screen, document and register former rebels who wish to apply for the Government amnesty and return home.

IOM's Sasha Chanoff says "We have a full house of registrants today and we are receiving calls from around Kenya from former combatants who are coming to Nairobi to beat the deadline."

IOM will now start working with the Amnesty Commission to process the data to define who qualifies for the programme. Those eligible will receive medical screening and repatriation assistance in early March.

Once in Uganda, they will be handed over to the Amnesty Commission and will receive rehabilitation and reintegration support provided by IOM, UNICEF and NGOs including World Vision, Gusca and Kichwa.

The US and EU-funded programme will allow the return and reintegration of an initial group of 500 ex- LRA rebels from Kenya and neighbouring Sudan.

For more information, please contact Sasha Chanoff, IOM Nairobi, Tel. +254.2.444.416. Email: schanoff@iom.int

COTE d'IVOIRE - IOM to Continue Emergency Relief Assistance - IOM will continue to provide assistance to some 160 refugees and IDPs who are currently sheltering in a transit centre at Deux Plateaux in the economic capital Abidjan.

Yesterday the UN Security Coordinator's Office (UNSECOORD) reclassified the security situation in the country as Phase 4 on the five-phase UN scale. This requires non-essential international staff to leave the country, but will not affect IOM's emergency work.=A0=A0

The current war was sparked by a rebel uprising on 19 September 2002, during which insurgents opposed to the government of President Laurent Gbagbo took control of the northern half of the country. Former colonial power France last month hosted nine days of talks between the rebels and political parties and managed to get all sides to agree on the setting up of a transitional government that would include representatives of the rebels. The deal triggered riots in Abidjan.

For further details please contact Denis Gravel, IOM Abidjan. +225.07582117.

TIMOR LESTE - Health Clinic Handover Marks End of Demobilization Program - IOM has handed over a newly completed out-patients health clinic in the mountain town of Gleno to the Timor Leste Health Ministry.

The US$57,000 facility, which will serve 92,000 people in the central Ermera district, was the final project in IOM's CIDA-funded Canadian Assistance to Demobilization in East Timor (CADET) programme.

The construction project, which took 5 months to complete, employed former members of Timor Leste's FALINTIL guerrilla army and other local inhabitants.=A0

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Finnish government agreed to contribute a further Euro 300,000 to IOM's community assistance and population stabilization efforts in the western part of the country. The area, which borders Indonesian West Timor, is home to large numbers of former refugees.

The Finnish funding will contribute to post-conflict assistance in remote rural areas by creating jobs and rehabilitating community assets selected by local people.=A0 It will not only help impoverished rural communities, but will also encourage people to stay in their villages, rather than migrate to overcrowded towns in search of work.

Timor Leste, which was devasted in the violence that preceded the September 1999 popular consultation on independence from Indonesia, is facing new problems this year, particularly in the south and east of the country. El Nino-induced drought has hit farmers and food production has plummeted.

IOM trucks made emergency deliveries over 160 MT of food including rice, oil and canned fish to Covalima in December and Los Palos this week.=A0 The food, provided by the Timor Leste government is being distributed by District Administrators. An estimated 25,000 East Timorese still remain in West Timor refugee camps.

AFGHANISTAN - Maslakh IDPs Return to Badghis Province - The first internally displaced Afghans of 2003 to return home from Herat's Maslakh IDP camp left for Badghis province yesterday.

Some 54 families (210 people) left the camp in the desert near the Iranian border aboard IOM trucks in the early morning in light rain. By the afternoon, the weather had improved.=A0=A0

Each family received an IOM reintegration package comprising a tent, a kerosene lantern, soap, biscuits, 100 kg of wheat and AFA 300 ($6.6) for any necessary onward transport. The 155 km journey to Badghis on atrocious roads takes a full day and many of the DPs were expected to spend last night at the IOM transit center in Qala-e-Naw, before traveling on to their villages.

In 2002 IOM Herat, which maintains a fleet of 63 Kamaz trucks, provided transport for nearly 100,000 people from the Herat IDP camps to their home villages, mainly in Badghis and Ghor provinces.

In 2003 IOM plans to provide return and reintegration assistance to another 100,000 internally displaced people throughout Afghanistan. It has appealed to donors for US$7 million to implement the programme.

An estimated 60,000 IDPs remain in the two remaining Herat camps - Maslakh, Shaidayee. In September 2002, IOM handed over management of the camps to an NGO, the International Catholic Migration Commission.

For further information, please contact Richard Danziger, IOM Kabul. Tel. 00 93 70 278816.

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