Statement from the Multinational Humanitarian Mission

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NAPSNet Special Report

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"Statement from the Multinational Humanitarian Mission", NAPSNet Special Reports, September 28, 1999, https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/statement-from-the-multinational-humanitarian-mission/

Tuesday, September 28, 1999, from Berkeley, California, USA

The United States Information Agency (USIA) distributed the 
following statement of the Multinational Humanitarian Mission to 
East Timor on September 27.

A guide to all NAPSNet East Timor Special Reports is available 
online at:
 http://www.nautilus.org/napsnet/sr/East_Timor/index.html

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Statement from the Multinational Humanitarian Mission

A humanitarian mission representing the Governments of Japan, 
Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom and the United States visited 
Jakarta, West Timor and East Timor on 20-24 September 1999. We 
would like to express our appreciation to the Government of the 
Republic of Indonesia as well as to the United Nations and 
INTERFET in East Timor for their co-operation in facilitating our 
programme.

As concerned members of the international community, our 
mission's objective was to assess first hand the critical 
humanitarian situation in East and West Timor and to mobilise 
international protection and assistance for the affected 
populations. We had productive discussions with Indonesian 
Government ministers, the Governor of Nusatenggara Timor 
Province, UN agencies, ICRC, international non-governmental 
organisations, various civil society groups including the local 
churches, human rights groups and some representatives of the 
East Timorese people. We visited several locations in Kupang and 
Atambua in West Timor that are hosting refugees. We also toured 
Dili including the ICRC-assisted hospital, and met with the 
Secretary General's Special Representative, UN Humanitarian Co-
ordinator, representatives of international agencies, Commander 
of INTERFET, and TNI leaders. We also appreciated the briefing 
from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees who was in Jakarta at 
the same time as us.

Our principal findings and conclusions are as follows:

We recognise the efforts being made by the national and 
provincial authorities as well as host communities to assist the 
refugees in West Timor (currently estimated to be the in the 
region of 150,000 to 200,000). They quickly mobilised essential 
shelter and food through the Ministry of Social Welfare and 
provincial authorities. We believe that those efforts can be 
encouraged through greater direct access to the affected 
populations by UN agencies, ICRC and NGOs. The UN High 
Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern at the 
continuing reports of intimidation and disappearances affecting 
some of the refugee groups, on top of the severe emotional and 
physical traumas already suffered by them in their departure from 
East Timor. Finally, the imminent rains will lead to a 
significant deterioration in conditions under which the refugees 
are sheltering and will endanger their health and well-being.

A durable solution to the issue of population displacement will 
include several options. Of the refugees with whom we spoke, 
almost all wished to return to their home areas in East Timor 
immediately or as soon as possible. Others prefer to remain 
temporarily in West Timor or permanently re-settle elsewhere in 
Indonesia. The Government of Indonesia also made us aware of its 
relocation plans under its transmigration programme. They also 
acknowledged that recognised international humanitarian norms 
require that all refugees and displaced persons should first be 
given the opportunity to make free and informed choices on 
whether or not to return to East Timor. Therefore, we encourage 
the Government of Indonesia to create urgently the necessary 
conditions whereby the populations of current concerns can do 
this with security and confidence through UNHCR. Access by the 
refugees to objective information about news and developments in 
relation to East Timor will be helpful to this process.

Allied to the above, refugees that have freely expressed the wish 
to return to East Timor should be supported to do so quickly. 
This would help to relieve the burden on refugee hosting 
communities and local authorities in West Timor. Timely return 
would also allow the opportunity to catch the forthcoming 
planting season in East Timor, thus promoting essential recovery. 
The return programme should be conducted under UNHCR auspices to 
areas deemed secure by INTERFET, including special reception 
centres set up for this purpose.

The humanitarian character of all refugee centres should be 
respected and every effort made by the Government of Indonesia to 
separate armed elements from the civilian population. In the 
context, we also welcome the Government of Indonesia's recent 
offer to facilitate an increased presence by international 
agencies, especially UNHCR and ICRC in West Timor, to expand 
humanitarian assistance as well as to initiate family tracing and 
reunification efforts. We also support the request of local 
authorities in NTT province for technical assistance with 
capacity building on relief programmes management and promotion 
of humanitarian principles. We welcome the readiness of UNDP to 
facilitate such assistance drawing particularly on international 
expertise available in the region.

In our visit to Dili we were shocked to observe the widespread 
physical destruction of homes, commercial facilities and public 
buildings. INTERFET has made a positive start in establishing 
security but it is early days yet, and the situation remains 
volatile. Co-operation between the peacekeeping forces and aid 
agencies shows promise but will need to be further developed to 
assure appropriate priority being given to humanitarian and other 
civilian operations. Planning for the United Nations-led 
transitional administration in East Timor needs to be accelerated 
so that an appropriate framework to guide rehabilitation and 
recovery is put in place as soon as possible.

All international agencies recognise the urgency of obtaining 
access throughout East Timor, including Ambino. Immediate needs 
assessments should then be conducted and humanitarian assistance 
and protection made available, especially to the estimated 
100,000 or more who are displaced in East Timor. Work on this has 
started led by the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator and involving UN 
agencies and NGOs. The resulting Consolidated Interagency Flash 
Appeal for both West and East Timor is expected to provide a good 
co-ordinated framework for addressing priority assistance needs; 
and we urge all donors to provide generous support.

In conclusion, we re-emphasise the over-riding importance of 
improving security and protection in both East and West Timor. 
This is essential to assure the provision of adequate 
humanitarian assistance and to safeguard the basic rights of 
vulnerable groups.

Japan Hiroto Hirakoba, Director Refugee Assistance, Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs Sweden Marika Fahlen, Ambassador Humanitarian 
Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thailand Chuchai Kasemsaru, 
Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs UK Mukesh 
Kapila, Head, Conflict & Humanitarian Affairs, Dept. Internal 
Development USA Julia Taft, Assistant Secretary of State, 
Department of State

Jakarta  24 September 1999

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