Subject: E Timorese immigration checks expected to resume in January

East Timorese immigration checks expected to resume in January

DILI, East Timor, Dec 28 (AFP) - Immigration checks are expected to resume at East Timor's main airport and port sometime in January, United Nations officials said Tuesday.

"We are hoping to have people working there within the next month," said Claude Malette, of the border control unit with the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

The first checks will be "fairly basic," said Ross Ballantyne, the unit's director.

Visas will not be required for entry to East Timor -- the territory has no embassies to issue them -- but immigration officers will be "screening, questioning, identifying" visitors, Ballantyne said.

"At this stage maybe there will be a time limit for stay put on," he said.

Visitors to East Timor can now simply walk off their aircraft or boat without being stopped or checked by anyone.

UNTAET is waiting for other countries to send customs and immigration inspectors to get the system started, Ballantyne said.

Australian has committed itself but negotiations are continuing over the level of support, he said.

In a model to be used in East Timor's police service as well, local East Timorese will later work with the international officers.

"We would be letting them do the work alongside the international officers and then ultimately they would take over," Ballantyne said.

UNTAET is administering East Timor for two or three years until the country officially becomes independent.

The UN is presently reviewing the resumes of about 90 East Timorese who formerly worked for the Indonesian immigration and customs service, Ballantyne said.

"I would expect that in the long term that we would probably employ most of those officers," Ballantyne said.

While the days of unhindered entry to East Timor are about to end it will likely take longer for the inspectors to start collecting duty.

"At the beginning we might not be able to implement the tax imposition but we are working on that to have it as soon as possible because it is one of the revenue sources," Malette said.

UNTAET began administering East Timor on October 25 after the Indonesian officially recognised the results of the UN held ballot in the territory on August 30.

East Timorese overwhelmingly voted for independence from Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

During Indonesian rule, visitors were required to show passports on arrival at Dili's airport even though Indonesia claimed East Timor as its 27th province.

A uniformed East Timorese immigration guard was usually accompanied at his counter by plainclothes Indonesian police who noted the visitor's occupation and where he was staying.


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