IOM welcomes the signing on 12 January of a memorandum of understanding between the UN, INTERFET and the Indonesian military (TNI). IOM hopes this agreement will facilitate the return of refugees to East Timor.
Over the last three days, IOM has provided return assistance to a total of 702 East Timorese. On 12 January, IOM repatriated 152 East Timorese from camps in the region of Kupang, Atambua and Betun (West Timor) to Dili, Batugade and Suai (East Timor). On 13 January, following the signing of the MOU between the UN, INTERFET and TNI, IOM and UNHCR opened a new border crossing at Ailala to increase the pace of the return operation. On that day, 111 refugees were picked up in three locations near Ailala and transported to Fatululik (East Timor). In addition, 233 refugees were transported from Atambua to Batugade. On 14 January, IOM organized another land convoy between Atambua and Batugade allowing 206 refugees to return to East Timor. All convoys were escorted to the border crossing points by Indonesian military (TNI)
As of 14 January 2000, IOM has organised the return by land, sea and air of 81,291 East Timorese from West Timor, from other parts of Indonesia and from Australia. Over the last three months, some 128,000 refugees have returned voluntarily in an organized or spontaneous way to East Timor,
Over the last few days, there has been an increase in the number of security incidents in East Timor. On 12 January, in a village near Aleu, two returnees were beaten-up by a local crowd. Both returnees, a teacher and a farmer, were accused of having stolen people's property in East Timor in order to sell it in West Timor. Several IOM vehicles have also been stoned by local youths. In another development, one local IOM staff was stoned in the Dili market.
Total returns by land
To date, IOM has returned 36,501 East Timorese by land from West Timor.
Total returns by sea
To date, IOM has returned 32,272 East Timorese by sea from
West Timor and from other parts of Indonesia
Total returns by air
To date, IOM has returned 7,793 East Timorese from Kupang to Dili and 3,912 from other parts of Indonesia.
A total of 813 East Timorese have so far been returned by IOM from Australia.
IOM has made an appeal to the international community for US$25,565,000 for its Timor activities. This includes US$23,250,000 for the return assistance of displaced people to East Timor. So far a total of US$13,716,515 has been pledged by Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and ECHO.