31 December 2011 |

Timor-Leste: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2011


The majority of Timor-Leste’s population of just over one million has experienced violent displacement at least once. In 1999, following a UN-supervised referendum on independence from Indonesia, 80 per cent of the population fled violence unleashed by pro-integration militias backed by the Indonesian security forces. In 2006, an estimated 150,000 people were displaced, as their homes and property in the capital Dili were seized or destroyed during violence. The causes included political rivalries and land disputes dating back to the struggle for independence, divisions between “easterners” and “west-erners” within the new state, and also chronic poverty and the lack of job prospects.

The government reported that there were no more IDPs in 2010, after it closed the last camps and paid compensation to their remaining residents. However, it remained unclear in 2011 whether returned IDPs had managed to achieve durable solutions in a context where the majority of the population suffers from multiple deprivations including lack of access to food, livelihoods, health, education, housing and justice. There were also concerns related to the capacity of communities to reintegrate IDPs and resolve land disputes in the absence of a national framework. 

In January 2011, an estimated 1,000 people were evicted from a former police compound where most of them had settled after they were displaced in 1999. Most received compensation, but it was reportedly insufficient to secure housing and land. At the end of the year, many of them remained in temporary shelters. The security of tenure of such people could be put at further risk by proposed land laws which were awaiting enactment at the end of 2011. 

During 2011, the Protection Cluster led by OHCHR cont-inued to monitor the situation of returning IDPs within its overview of protection issues facing the whole population. UNDP assisted the government on land and property issues and on peacebuilding and social cohesion.