Summary: As March 31 deadline set by the Indonesian government for refugees to decide whether to remain in West Timor or return to East Timor approaches, the number of refugees returning to East Timor has increased. Over the last three days, IOM has helped a total of 1,748 displaced East Timorese to return home.
Today, Tuesday 28 March, an IOM land convoy repatriated 170 people from the West Timor city of Atambua to the border town of Batugade. Another land convoy repatriated 200 people from the southern city of Suai to Salele. . The IOM operated ship the Patricia Anne Hotung will leave Kupang today with 485 returnees on board and will arrive in Dili on 29 March. Secondary movements from Dili include 113 to Hotalia and 129 to Maubisse.
On Monday 27 March IOM transported 347 people from Atambua to Batugade. Another 133 travelled from Betun to Salele. A further 27 travelled from the West Timor town of Kefa to Oecussi.
On 26 and 25 March, a total of 498 persons were transported on an IOM-chartered barge from the port of Suai, in Eastern Timor, to Betano. Most of them were then returned to their homes in the Same area.
At the border the UN Peacekeeping Force (PKF) has lowered the security rating from high to medium, but reported an exchange of fire between a PKF patrol and a militia group near Maliana on Thursday.
Returns: As of March 24, IOM and UNHCR have organised the return by land, sea and air of 110,902* East Timorese from West Timor, from other parts of Indonesia and from Australia. The total number of returnees now stands at 157,028.
Total returns by land: 58,112 by land from West Timor.
Total returns by sea: 34,840 by sea from West Timor and from other parts of Indonesia
Total returns by air: 17,950 by air from Kupang, other parts of Indonesia and Australia.
(*NB. These numbers were reviewed and corrected 24/3/00.)
Funding: IOM has received support from the international community to fund its Timor activities. Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and ECHO financed IOM's return movements to East Timor totalling US$ 14,210,988.
Now that the emergency phase is winding down, efforts are concentrated on post-conflict rehabilitation through a range of interrelated projects such as the return of qualified nationals, reintegration of demobilized combatants, mobile information and referral services, community based rehabilitation and migration management capacity building. These activities form an integral part of the international humanitarian communities' response to the crisis.