Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - East Timor

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 12 June 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - East Timor, 12 June 2007, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

East Timor (Tier 2)

East Timor is a destination country for women from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the People's Republic of China (P. R. C. ) trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking of Timorese women and girls from rural areas to Dili for sexual exploitation is a problem and there are concerns that it could increase due to long-term internal displacement and increased presence of international peacekeepers. An attempt to traffic Timorese women to Syria was thwarted, but points to the possibility of East Timor becoming a source country. There are unverified reports of men trafficked for forced labor in East Timor.

The Government of East Timor does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government has not enacted a draft penal code that defines and punishes the crime of trafficking because of concerns regarding other unrelated provisions and delays related to the political crisis in the country. The political crisis disrupted the work of the country's Trafficking Working Group; it has not met in over a year. As the East Timor legal system develops in the coming years and takes over functions handled by international officials, the government should focus on law enforcement efforts against trafficking, including specialized training of officials in investigating, prosecuting, and obtaining convictions of traffickers. The government should devote considerably more resources to prevention, rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of trafficking victims, as government finance and project management capabilities develop in the coming years and as reliance on international organizations diminishes.


The Government of East Timor showed minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the past year. Currently East Timor's law enforcement system depends on international police, prosecutors, and judges, with expectations that Timorese officials will gradually accept more responsibility. East Timor prohibits all forms of sex and labor trafficking through its 2003 Immigration and Asylum Act and prescribes penalties for trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation that, while not commensurate with those for rape, are sufficiently stringent. The government has not prosecuted any cases against traffickers. In March 2006 national police conducted a raid against an establishment in Dili in which a Philippine victim was forced into sexual exploitation. Eight additional victims from the P. R. C. and Indonesia were rescued, and suspected traffickers were arrested. The Office of the Prosecutor General dismissed the case without any indictments and no further action was taken. There were allegations that the establishment owner had powerful business connections. A new penal code based on the Portuguese penal code was approved by the Council of Ministers in late 2005. However, due to controversy regarding other, unrelated provisions, the code was not promulgated and remains in limbo. Pending the promulgation of a penal code, East Timor's judicial system continues to rely on the Indonesian penal code. In January 2007, UN police arrested two men suspected of attempting to traffic East Timorese women to Syria. There is limited evidence of a tolerance for trafficking by border officials and police who may take bribes to allow victims into the country or turn a blind eye to brothel operations.


The East Timorese Government began providing limited but still insufficient victim protection during the reporting period, relying largely on international organizations and NGOs to provide this care for victims. Authorities encouraged victims to participate in the investigation of traffickers and to file civil suits against traffickers; however, the country's dysfunctional court system prevented most legal action. Foreign victims can request refugee status; victims were repatriated through a process known as "voluntary abandonment." Under this arrangement, individuals present in East Timor illegally, but thought to be trafficking victims, are given 10 days to depart the country and are provided assistance with travel documents. There is no threat of prosecution involved in the voluntary abandonment process, and there were no reports of voluntary abandonment being forced or involuntary. Several other victims were repatriated through the help of their embassies or an international organization. Trafficking victims are generally not treated as criminals. The Ministry of Labor works with international organizations to arrange assistance and shelter for victims on an ad hoc basis.


The Government of East Timor continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs to raise awareness and prevent trafficking in persons. The Ministry of Labor collaborated with NGOs and international organizations to support public information campaigns. The Trafficking Working Group is chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and includes other government ministries, international organizations and NGOs, but it has not met in over a year because of the political crisis throughout 2006. East Timor has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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