05 November 2008

Timor-Leste - Measuring the effects of large scale IDP returns

International Organization for Migration (IOM) Date: 28 Oct 2008

Timor-Leste - Measuring the effects of large scale IDP returns

IOM has released the first report of its Community-based Return Monitoring Project. The project aims to measure the effect on communities of recent large-scale return and reintegration of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The report is based on a survey of more than five hundred chefe aldeia (village chiefs), women, returning IDPs and other community members across 144 communities in Dili. It focuses primarily on the effects on communities of population movements, stability, perceptions of access to services and livelihoods and ongoing assistance provided.

According to the government, of the over 100,000 people believed to have been displaced as a result of the 2006 civil and political unrest, 7,700 families (nearly 40,000 people) have so far benefited from return and reintegration assistance under the National Recovery Strategy.

Over the past six months, a majority of these families-many of whom lived in camps for more than two years-have returned to their villages of origin or resettled in other Dili neighbourhoods. As a result, some villages have had to absorb more than a hundred families.

In order to help the government to better understand the return dynamics, IOM monitoring teams met with various groups in these communities to collect information about the perceived impact of returns.

The results showed that, while many communities did not raise specific concerns, some communities reported perceived challenges in absorbing IDPs. These tended to be related to unresolved conflicts between community members and returned IDPs or to tensions arising over land and access to basic resources.

The IOM Monitoring Project is one element of a multi-faceted effort by the government and partners to better understand the nature of tensions and conflicts that may negatively impact the sustainability of the return of the displaced to their communities.

"This project is aimed at providing the government, relevant local actors and international and non-governmental organisations with information that can be used to inform programmes that aim to strengthen the sustainability of ongoing return and reintegration initiatives," says IOM Chief of Mission Luiz Vieira.

"More time and effort will be needed to address the deep-rooted community conflicts that led to the crisis, but this initiative aims to identify some of the more immediate issues and concerns that may negatively affect the sustainability of return. We hope it will identify areas that would benefit from further trust-building activities," he adds.

In the second phase of monitoring, which began in mid-September, IOM has partnered with four NGO's-CARE, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and BELUN-to cover all 222 conflict-affected aldeias in Dili District.

Monthly monitoring is complemented by referrals of individual cases of concern. These cases, which are often related to occupied houses or protection issues, are directly referred to agencies capable of immediate response and follow-up.

IOM also continues to play a key role in helping displaced families to prepare for their return and reintegration and conducting case-by-case monitoring in communities.

The IOM Return and Reintegration Unit, in cooperation with government and other partners, helps IDPs to take informed decisions about their return options, facilitates dialogue or mediation with the return community when needed, accompanies them to their destination on the day of the movement and visits the returnees after their return or resettlement.

Information gathered by IOM during this process is provided to relevant actors including the UN Police, the Ombudsman for Human Rights, the UNMIT Human Rights and Transitional Justice Section, the Ministry of Social Solidarity's (MSS) UNDP-supported Dialogue Teams and NGOs supporting community-based peace-building initiatives. IOM also provides technical advisory and administrative support to MSS in the implementation of the National Recovery Strategy.

More information on IOM's activities in support of return and reintegration of displaced people in Timor-Leste is available from Angela Sherwood at Email: asherwood@iom.int Tel 723.1576 or Valentina Bacchin at Email: vbacchin@iom.int Tel. 723.1578.

For media enquiries, please contact Brad Mellicker, IOM Dili, Tel: + 670 735 1998, email: bmellicker@iom.int


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