Last of East Timor's displaced people return home
Three years after civil unrest forced over 150,000 Timorese to flee their homes, the last displaced persons camp in the capital Dili is finally set to close.
It has been 10 years since East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in a historic referendum. Since then, the road to stability has been precarious, and the eruption of violence in 2006 weakened previous peace building efforts.
Plan’s response was immediate. Within days Plan had started relief efforts in a camp in Dom Bosco, which gradually grew in size over the weeks. Primarily, Plan focused on child protection systems and early childhood care and development activities, while also promoting health and hygiene issues to children.
Plan was also responsible for the operation, coordination and administration of 12 out of the 45 camps across Dili, where Plan staff facilitated the distribution of food and other essential items, as well as developing water and sanitation facilities.
Read the story of Amivi — a young girl who spent most of the first years of her life in an IDP camp.
Road to recovery
Now the country is at a turning point. By the end of the year, the Metinaro camp, the last of the 60 camps set up after the riots, will close along with the five remaining transitional shelters that have housed displaced persons. Is this the first sign that this traumatized nation is finally on the road to recovery?
Much of the violence in 2006 was blamed on tension that surfaced for a variety of social, economic and political reasons in the post-referendum period. Reintegrating communities back into society is an important part of the country’s healing and recovery process, but little progress is being made.
People returning from the camps who find their property destroyed and possessions stolen are blaming those who stayed home during the unrest, exacerbating an already fragile situation.
Many crimes, including arson, property damage and murder, remain unresolved, making it difficult for East Timor to move forward.
“We call for justice for the crimes which occured during the the 2006 crisis,” says Plan East Timor Country Director Susan Smandych. “This will enable people to learn from the past and create the foundations for new and equitable methods of conflict resolution.”
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