September 1999: First food drop expected in E Timor today
The first air drop of emergency supplies to East Timor refugees
is expected to take place today, according to a United Nations
official in Darwin. Earlier, Australia abandoned efforts to
begin dropping food supplies to refugees yesterday because
Indonesia had failed to give diplomatic clearance.
the drop would now go ahead "barring any sort of last-minute
hitches", said the UN official, Ross Mountain.
than 60,000 refugees are hiding in the East Timor mountains
at the risk of starvation, sickness and attack from pro-Indonesian
militias. Because of the diplomatic delay, Australia had thought
the air drops might not start until after the first international
troops arrived in East Timor, possibly on Sunday or Monday.
nuns in East Timor accused the Indonesian military of planning
to bomb refugees once they leave their hiding places to search
for food parcels.
Jakarta, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),
which wants to deliver food by guarded truck convoys, said
it had made only small deliveries of milk powder and candles
to the Dili airport and refugees nearby. The Red Cross had
only just obtained a promise that the Indonesian military
would escort convoys but lacked enough local staff to start
imminent arrival of foreign troops in East Timor should improve
security for food deliveries and give an indication of how
many people have fled into the mountains, have been forcibly
deported to West Timor or have been killed by militias and
stories abound about massacres, including reports of boats
leaving Dili full and returning empty within an hour, well
before they could have reached a safe destination. Of particular
concern is the notable scarcity of men in the refugee camps,
lending credence to eyewitness reports of targeted killings.
woman who had 24 refugees staying in her house said armed
pro-Indonesian militiamen were still dominating the streets
of Atambua, a border town that houses some 75,000 East Timorese.
She said militiamen knifed one refugee earlier this week and
later dragged him out of hospital before doctors could treat
Red Cross said one of its staff had been kidnapped and another
had disappeared. Because of militia attacks on foreigners,
only local Red Cross staff could enter the camps but the ICRC
hoped to start fielding foreigners in West Timor next week.
concern, noted by diplomats in Jakarta, is government plans
to relocate the refugees to other islands.
governor of East Nusa Tenggara, the province that includes
West Timor, earlier this week sent a list of suggested migration
sites on nearby islands to the interior minister, Syarwan
Hamid. UN officials, on the other hand, were trying to persuade
Indonesia to ensure a safe return for refugees to East Timor.
refugees may want to relocate. Many of the 141,000 refugees
in West Timor are part of some 90,000 people who voted for
integration within Indonesia, including thousands of non-Timorese
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