04 July 2009

UNMIT: Breakthrough as Timor's remaining IDP camp begins to close

Breakthrough as Timor's remaining IDP camp begins to close Source: United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) Date: 02 Jul 2009 - Dili, 02 July, 2009- As Timor-Leste's last major internally displaced persons camp begins to close, the nation starts to grapple with the longer term consequences of the three-year displacement.

More than three years after families fled to shelters for safety following the Timor-Leste crisis of April/May 2006, one of the largest camps formed as a result of the mass displacement of people has begun to close. About 700 families began to leave the Metinaro camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) on Wednesday 17 June after accepting the Government national recovery package.

To prepare for the move, the Government, through the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS), and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), have for several months engaged in intensive dialogue and mediation in the receiving communities to pave the way for the return of the displaced families.

Monitors from various organizations including IOM, the Norwegian Refugee Council, UNMIT, The Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice, Catholic Relief Services, Care and local NGO Belun have been closely observing the return of the families. The monitors are each assigned a family, who they accompany on their return 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.

The return of IDPs from the Metinaro camp will bring the total number of families who have received a recovery or reintegration package under the Hamutuk Hari'i Futuru National Recovery Strategy to more than 13,500. While the closure of the last and largest of the 65 IDP camps can be seen as a symbolic end to the 2006 crisis, it does not signal the end of the displacement; there are still over 2,480 individuals living in transitional shelters.

"We must consider the long-term impact that the displacement has had," said Louis Gentile. "In his December 2008 visit, the Special Rapporteur of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of IDPs highlighted that there are still many fundamental underlying issues and challenges to be resolved if the return of IDPs is to be sustainable."

In the short-term, these challenges include ensuring the protection of returnees, finding a solution for the IDPs still in transitional camps and continued engagement through dialogue.

The longer-term challenges are somewhat more far-reaching. They will require the adoption of national land laws and efficient mechanisms to regulate land and property disputes, sufficient investment in infrastructure to grant access to basic services to all community members, and ensuring justice and accountability for the crimes that led to the original displacement.


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