UN helping Timorese uprooted families return home peacefully

3 July 2009

The United Nations is assisting families displaced by violence which shook Timor-Leste in 2006 return to their homes and preventing potential conflicts in their communities.

In late April 2006, fighting – attributed to differences between eastern and western regions – erupted when 600 striking soldiers, or one-third of the armed forces, were fired. Ensuing violence claimed dozens of lives and drove 155,000 people, 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes.

The Metinaro camp, one of the largest sites housing internally displaced persons (IDPs) uprooted during that crisis, began closing last month, with 700 families returning home after accepting a Government recovery package.

To prepare for the moves, the Government and its partners have been holding dialogues and mediations with the receiving communities to pave the way for the return of displaced families.

In his most recent report on Timor-Leste, which the UN shepherded to independence in 2002, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said warned that the root causes of the 20-6 crisis, including poverty and unemployment, still linger.

Monitors with the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, known as UNMIT, along with non-governmental organizations, have each been assigned a family to accompany home.

“Continued monitoring of the returned families will be critical in identifying and mitigating potential conflict in their communities,” said Louis Gentile, Timor-Leste Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Nearly 14,000 displaced families have accepted Government recovery packages, and despite the closure of camps, almost 2,500 people are still seeking refuge in shelters.

“We must consider the long-term impact that the displacement has had,” Mr. Gentile said.

According to UNMIT, short-term challenges for returning IDPs include protection, while longer-term obstacles will require the adoption of national land laws and efficient mechaniss to regulate land and property disputes sufficient investment in infrastructure to allow all people to access basic services and ensuring justice and accountability for the crimes that led to the original displacement.


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