Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2010 - Timor-Leste

Quick facts
Number of IDPsUndetermined
Percentage of total populationUndetermined
Start of current displacement situation2006
Peak number of IDPs (Year)150,000 (2006)
New displacement0
Causes of displacementGeneralised violence
Human development index120

An estimated 150,000 people were displaced in 2006 within Timor-Leste, as their homes and property in the capital Dili were seized or destroyed during violence between rival army and police factions and among the wider population. They sought refuge either in the city, in government buildings, schools or churches and subsequently in makeshift camps, or else with families or friends in rural districts. The causes included political rivalries and land disputes dating back to the struggle for independence from Indonesia, divisions between "easterners" and "westerners", and also chronic poverty and the lack of prospects of the youth population.

In 2008, around 30,000 IDPs were still in the camps, and the government distributed cash compensation to people agreeing to leave. Partly due to the lack of available land, the government only supported IDPs returning home. During 2010, a last group of 1,000 IDPs received the compensation and the last transitional shelters were closed.

Most land and property disputes involving returnees were usually resolved locally, with squatters often agreeing to leave in exchange for some of the IDPs' compensation money; but cases involving conflicting ownership claims could not be resolved in the absence of a national framework. A new land law has been drafted, but some civil society organisations have highlighted the potential of further conflict, as the law does not enable people who have moved into homes abandoned since December 1998 to gain secure ownership.

The UN introduced the cluster system in 2009, even though the humanitarian crisis was already over and most agencies had turned to development activities. In 2010, UNDP and the government conducted programmes in which both returnees and receiving communities participated to identify their shared priorities.


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