Subject: UNHCR breakthrough in E Timor refugee repatriation: Ogata

UNHCR breakthrough in East Timor refugee repatriation: Ogata

GENEVA, Oct 8 (AFP) - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Sadako Ogata said Friday the commission hoped to increase to 1,000 a day the flow of returning refugees from camps in West Timor to East Timor.

She said the UNHCR in Dili was now ready to receive about 50,000 people.

Ogata told a press conference in Geneva that the UNHCR had never negotiated with the militas to have access to refugee camps in West Timor.

"The local and national governments provided escorts - both military and police - to help us go in," she said.

"The fact that we had access to these people, that we were able to organize returns is a major breakthrough," Ogata said.

"We hope in the next few days to increase the people who can go back daily to about a thousand."

Ogata also said that "we are moving much more freer now," but admitted that The commission had to be "cautious on all fronts," particularly with respect to the Indonesian army-backed militias that run some of the camps.

"The problem remains for the people to whom we have no access or people who are not really free to talk to us ... particularly in the Atambua area," where refugees are more widely dispersed and where it is harder to circulate freely.

Ogata said UNHCR personnel would be reinforced in that area.

She also said that high-level Indonesian army officers had recognized that "some elements (of the army) have not acted in the best way."

Militias which went on a rampage following an August 30 East Timorese vote favoring independence from Jakarta were reported in some instances to have been backed by crack Indonesian army units.


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