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Indonesian army pledges help for UN refugee camp in West Timor

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Indonesian army officials today informed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that they would deploy troops at one of the agency's camps to allow staff to begin repatriation of some 7,000 refugees.
The UN refugee agency had been having problems in its Noelbaki camp since the beginning of the refugee crisis in West Timor. In early September, UNHCR officials visiting the camp were attacked and two of them sustained injuries, an agency spokesman said.

Yesterday, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for East Timor, Ross Mountain, discussed the situation with the leader of the Indonesian armed forces, General Widodo, who pledged action to ensure that militia would not hinder the repatriation process.

Since 1 November, there have been at least 19 harassment incidents by militiamen of UNHCR staff, aid workers and refugees in the Atambua area alone, where most of the estimated 200,000 refugees are located in some 40 refugee sites along the border, the spokesman said. Today, a UNHCR team was unable to extract 50 refugees who had registered to go back to East Timor after a crowd of mainly women and children blocked the entrance to the camp.

Since UNHCR began a repatriation program on 8 October, more than 56,000 refugees from West Timor have returned to East Timor, with about 18,000 of them going back on their own.