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UNHCR Briefing Notes: Balkans, Timor

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This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations. Quoted text from this briefing note may be attributed to the UNHCR spokesperson named below left
Kris Janowski

1. High Commissioner travels to the Balkans

On Thursday, the High Commissioner flies to Zagreb, Croatia - the first leg of 13-day long tour of the Balkans. The High Commissioner will examine progress on refugee and displacement issues in the region where last year alone UNHCR spent nearly a third of its annual budget. She will meet with a string of high-ranking national and international officials across south eastern Europe. In Kosovo, she will meet with the head of the UN administration there, Dr. Bernard Kouchner. She is also scheduled to visit the tense city of Mitrovica and meet with representatives of both the Serb and the ethnic Albanian communities. This is the trip's tentative schedule:

On Saturday March 18, she will leave Zagreb to travel to Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
On Sunday, she goes to Sarajevo.
On Tuesday, she will travel to Belgrade, FR of Yugoslavia.
On Thursday, she will go to Podgorica, Montenegro.
On Friday, she goes to Pristina, Kosovo.
On Monday, she goes to Skopje, FYR of Macedonia.
On Tuesay, she goes to Tirana, Albania.
On Wednesday afternoon, she leaves Tirana for Geneva.

2. Timor

More than 1,000 East Timorese have moved out of three major refugee encampments in West Timor's Kupang area in the largest movements from these facilities so far since the repatriation program started in October.

These people from Tuapukan, Noelbaki and Naimbonat camps are now at the UNHCR transit centre in Kupang, awaiting arrangements for their final destinations from the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), and CNRT, the umbrella organisation for East Timorese political groups. 450 of them are scheduled to leave for Dili by an IOM-chartered boat later today. The group includes 20 former Indonesian army (TNI) soldiers who had de-commissioned from TNI. The group's final destination is Los Palos in the east of East Timor.

The remainder of the 1,000 strong group currently in UNHCR's transit centre come from Ailieu (pronounced Aye-Liuh), a town in the southern outskirts of Dili regarded as a stronghold of the Falintil (the National Liberation Armed Forces of East Timor). UNHCR wants to have assurances from the East Timorese political leaders and UNTAET that they will be able to return in safety before taking them back.

More than 150,000 of the estimated 250,000 people from East Timor who came to West Timor in the aftermath of the violence that followed the 30 August vote for independence of East Timor have returned home.

UNHCR hopes that the safe return of this group now at the Kupang transit centre will give momentum to the repatriation program, which has slowed since late December.

This document is intended for public information purposes only. It is not an official UN document.