IOM first began work in Timor-Leste in August 1999; since then IOM has provided return and reintegration assistance to the approximately 190,000 Timorese people who fled to West Timor during the 1999 post-referendum violence, participated in the disarmament and reintegration of ex-Falintil combatants, and undertaken community stabilisation and infrastructure programmes. As a result of the civil unrest of 2006, the IOM Mission in Timor-Leste quickly began its work supporting the Government in its response to internal displacement and the development of durable solutions for the affected population. By closure of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in early 2010, IOM had assisted the return of over 17,000 families to their communities.

IOM also supports the Government of Timor-Leste in attaining its longer-term development goals through the provision of technical assistance and advice to further strengthen institutional capacity. Since 2005, the IOM Mission has been working closely with the Government to develop coherent and well-coordinated migration systems to ensure efficient migration management for Timorese citizens, visitors, immigrants, irregular migrants, and asylum seekers, as well as providing technical support to the National Directorate for Disaster Risk Management. The Mission has also been providing support and technical assistance to the Government and civil society in dealing with new emerging trends such as human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

Movement, Emergency and Post-crisis Migration Management

In an effort to support the Government to meet the protection and assistance needs of IDPs, IOM, in coordination with the Ministry of Social Solidarity and a local NGO partner, implemented a return and reintegration programme. The programme facilitated dialogue and trust-building activities between IDPs and communities of origin; provided transportation for IDPs wishing to return home or relocate to the districts from IDP camps; built the capacity of two suco (village) councils to better address conflict points and community development needs; monitored the return and the impact of this on the receiving community to act as an early warning system for other organizations; and provided technical support and assistance to the implementation of the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s National Recovery Strategy. IOM Timor-Leste is currently seeking extension of these activities.

During its return and reintegration work, IOM also developed innovative means to stabilize communities which experienced high numbers of returning IDPs. In particular, in response to competition over resources, IOM implements a project to upgrade infrastructure in selected communities; enhance community stability through the production of a telenovela (soap opera) designed to promote public dialogue about community conflict issues currently airing on the national television station; and produced a “safe housing” construction manual aimed primarily at IDPs who are rebuilding their homes.

Regulating Migration

IOM undertakes a variety of counter-trafficking activities, comprising of four main components: the development of legal frameworks and coordination mechanisms; institutional capacity building; public information campaigns; and direct assistance to victims. IOM's activities towards those ends include: supporting the Inter-Agency Trafficking Working Group, chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to coordinate anti-trafficking initiatives at the national level and to develop a national plan of action to combat trafficking; promoting the development of comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation; conducting specialised counter-trafficking trainings for Government line ministries, law enforcement agencies, civil society, service providers and local leaders; developing and carrying out awareness raising campaigns; supporting service provider coordination and cooperation through a stakeholders' network and the development of a national referral mechanism; and providing comprehensive direct assistance to trafficked persons.

In addition, IOM is assisting the Government of Timor-Leste in the development of coherent and well-coordinated migration management systems that can ensure efficient migration for Timorese citizens, visitors, immigrants, irregular migrants and asylum seekers. IOM provides technical and coordination support to departments involved in migration management including the Secretary of State for Security and the Department of Migration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Passports Directorate under the Ministry of Justice and the Secretary of State for Training and Professional Employment. IOM provides, for example, secretariat support to the Government's ministerial-level Interagency Migration Steering Committee. IOM initiatives aim to build the Government's capacity to facilitate lawful migration and combat irregular migration including the smuggling and trafficking of people into and out of Timor-Leste.


  • Enhanced Migration Management (EMM) Programme, Phase II Supporting Gender Equality and Women's Rights in Timor-Leste

Migration, Climate Change and Environmental Degradation

Timor-Leste's location north of the subduction zone between the Eurasian and Australian plates makes it particularly susceptible to natural hazards. The country additionally experiences the cyclical effects of the El Niño/ Southern Oscillation-related weather anomalies, which are associated with droughts. These climatic changes (which are predicted to become more acute in the future), combined with pest infestation as well as regular floods, landslides, river shifts and erosion due to heavy monsoonal rains, steep topography and prevalent deforestation, makes Timor-Leste even more prone to food insecurity, instability and poverty.

In response to these challenges, IOM Timor-Leste supports the institutional strengthening of the Government to prepare and respond to natural disasters, in particular the Office of the Secretary of State for Natural Disasters and Social Assistance and the National Disaster Management Directorate. The Organization also provides specific field-level support to community-based disaster risk management (CBDRM) through the allocation of its flexible fund for partner agencies with pre-existing grass-roots disaster risk management (DRM) programmes. Recognising that broad administrative and management issues often conspire to diminish the impact and efficiency of Government planning and response, the project, now in its second phase, focuses on organizational support to improve inter-ministerial co-ordination among relevant Government institutions, coordination between national and sub-national levels, and, crucially, to enhance the administrative/managerial efficacy of the agencies concerned.


  • IOM Support to Disaster Risk Reduction in Timor-Leste, Phase II

Last updated:
Main text: 18 March 2011
Facts and figures: April 2012