The Early Years
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 (Indonesia) during the 1999 post-referendum violence; contributed to the disarmament and reintegration of ex-Falintil combatants; and undertaken a number of community stabilization and infrastructure programs. Following the civil unrest of 2006, the IOM Mission in Timor-Leste quickly began its work supporting the Government of Timor-Leste in its response to internal displacement and the development of durable solutions for the affected population. By closure of the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in early 2010, IOM had assisted the return of over 17,000 families to their communities.
Following the widespread internal displacement in Timor-Leste around 2006 – 2007, and 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 (MSS) and a local NGO partner[WJ2] , implemented a return and reintegration program. The program 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 MSS’s National Recovery Strategy.
During its return and reintegration work, IOM also developed innovative means to stabilize communities that experienced high numbers of returning IDPs. In particular, in response to competition over resources, IOM implemented projects 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 that aired on the national television station; and produced a “safe housing” construction manual aimed primarily at IDPs who are rebuilding their homes.
IOM Timor-Leste is currently working closely with Government counterparts to prevent and prepare for future internal displacement through its Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs and projects.
- Technical Support to the Government of Timor-Leste to complete Hamutuk Hari'I Uma (Building Houses Together) Programme, Commonwealth of Australia-AusAID [2010 – 2011]
- Enhancing Stabilisation Through Sustainable Reintegration of IDPs, European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) [2009 – 2011]
- Return, Relocation and Reintegration Support to IDPS and IDP-affected Communities in Timor-Leste, UN Peacebuilding Fund [2009 – 2011]
- IOM Camp Management and Coordination Support to the Assistance Protection and Sustainable Return of Internally Displaced Persons in East Timor, Commonwealth of Australia-AusAID [2008 – 2010]
- Protection Assistance and Sustainable Return and Reintegration of IDPs in Timor-Leste, European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) [2008 – 2009]
- Support to Community Stabilisation and Sustainable Return and Reintegration in Timor-Leste, Government of Czech Republic [2008 – 2009]
- Post-Return Protection Monitoring for IDPs in Timor-Leste, UNDP [2008 – 2009]
- IOM Support to Camp Management and Return and Reintegration of IDPs in Timor-Leste, European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) [2007 – 2008]
- IOM Support to Internally Displaced Population in Timor-Leste, Commonwealth of Australia-AusAID [2006 – 2008]
- IOM Assistance to IDPs in East Timor, Government of Japan [2006 – 2007]
- Support for Internally Displaced Population in East Timor, UN Central Emergency Fund 
Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration
In the context of Timor-Leste’s Strategic Development Plan as well as SDG 10[WJ3] and SDG 16, 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 Ministry of Interior (particularly the Migration Service), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and Secretariat of State for Training and Professional Employment (SEPFOPE). At a national policy level, IOM Timor-Leste also works closely with the Office of the Prime Minister as well as the Ministry of Legislative Reform and Parliamentary Affairs (MRLAP). Overall, IOM initiatives aim to strengthen the Government's capacity to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration and combat irregular migration including the smuggling and trafficking of people into, within and out of Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste’s ratification of the Global Compact for Migration [WJ4] (GCM) reflects its commitment to cooperate internationally to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration. IOM supports the Government of Timor-Leste’s efforts to improve migration governance, address the challenges associated with today’s migration, and strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development. Their ratification of the CGM provides an opportunity to improve the mobility of Timorese citizens, inform national migration policies to strengthen labor migration efforts, border control as well as combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling, as well as establish a concrete and coordinated approach to address all aspects of international migration – humanitarian, developmental, human rights‐related and other areas of migration. IOM is currently implementing three projects - the Migration Governance Indicators[WJ5] (MGI), Migration Profile [WJ6] (MP) and Migration Governance (MG) - that aim to strengthen Timor-Leste’s commitment to the GCM objectives.
The MGI framework helps countries to assess the comprehensiveness of their migration governance structure, and identify gaps and areas that could be improved further. The MGI aims to strengthen migration governance by clarifying what “well-governed migration” might look like in the context of SDG Target 10.7 to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies, which appears under SDG 10 to reduce inequality within and among countries. The six dimensions of migration governance included in the MGI are (1) migrants’ rights, (2) whole-of-government approach, (3) partnerships, (4) well-being of migrants, (5) mobility and dimensions of crises and (6) safe, orderly and dignified migration. The MGI is a tool based on policy inputs, which offers insights on policy levers that countries can use to develop their migration governance.
The Migration Profile project entails mapping out trends of migration, building capacity and providing specific action and policy recommendations to identify and develop strategies for migration management that will strengthen Timor-Leste’s ability to respond to various migration challenges and opportunities. The main objective of the project is to contribute to good migration governance that enhances national programming, planning and policy-making, which will primarily be achieved through improving the collection and management of migration information and data.
The Migration Profile also aims to strengthen collaboration among key stakeholders to address various migration opportunities and challenges through the Inter-Agency Anti-Human Trafficking Working Group (TWG), which is responsible for developing a common vision that defines overall objectives and key migration governance priorities.
IOM Timor-Leste operates within the context of counter-trafficking prevention, protection, and prosecution. IOMs comprehensive approach to addressing human trafficking focuses on institutional capacity development, preventing human trafficking, protecting victims, and strengthening data collection and research in partnership with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Timor-Leste National Police, and with funding from the United States Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (JTIP).
Since 2016, IOM has trained 660 people including law enforcement officers, government officials, social services staff, NGOs, judges and prosecutors. These trainings have primarily focused on developing and strengthening national surveillance and referral capacities to ensure the effective protection of victims of trafficking (VoTs), as well as helped to increase awareness, address the root causes of vulnerability to trafficking, identify potential victims and provide services including safe housing, counseling and medical treatment.
IOM has also worked with the government to strengthen national policies and procedures, as well as improve legislation and regulations. In 2016, IOM provided technical support to establish the Inter-agency Anti-trafficking Working Group which to this day continues to play a pivotal role in combating human trafficking. IOM also supported the drafting of the National Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons (2016-2018) and the establishment of the National Referral Network for Domestic Violence and TIP. In 2018, IOM facilitated the First National Community Engagement Forum on TIP and worked alongside the MoJ to socialize the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Law in 12 municipalities.
Today, IOM continues to support the government to strengthen institutional capacity to combat human trafficking in Timor-Leste, through identifying TIP challenges, opportunities and gaps in protection, prevention and prosecution, building partnerships, and sharing information, tools and strategies to better meet the needs of VoTs and those in potential trafficking situations in Timor-Leste.
- Migration Governance: Timor-Leste, IOM Development Fund [2019 – 2020]
- Migration Profile of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, IOM Development Fund [2018 – 2020]
- Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste: Migration Governance Indicators, IOM [2018 – 2019]
- Informing Program and Policy Development on Human Trafficking, Commonwealth of Australia-Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) [2016 – 2017]
- Protecting Victims of Trafficking through Enhanced Partnership, Identification and Referral, Government of the United States of America-Department of State Federal Assistance Award [2015 – 2018]
- Strengthening Labour Migration Management in Timor-Leste, IOM Development Fund (IDF) [2014 – 2016]
- Making the Case for Human Trafficking in Timor-Leste: Capacity Building and Policy Development, Government of the United States of America-Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) [2014 – 2016]
- Assistance to Irregular Migrants – Phase II, Commonwealth of Australia-Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) [2014 – 2015]
- Enhancing the Capacity of the Government of Timor-Leste to Combat Human Smuggling and Related Crimes, Government of Canada-Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) [2014 – 2015]
- Assistance to Irregular Migrants – Phase I, Commonwealth of Australia-DIAC [2012 – 2014]
- Support for the Migration Service of Timor-Leste, Commonwealth of Australia-DIAC [2012 – 2013]
- Strengthening Government and Service Providers Responses to Human Trafficking in Timor-Leste: A Capacity Building Initiative, IOM Development Fund (IDF) [2011 – 2012]
- Enhanced Migration Management (EMM) Programme – Phase II: Timor-Leste, Commonwealth of Australia-DIAC [2009 -2012]
- Halt Exploitation and Learn to Prosecute (HELP): Timor-Leste – Phase III, Government of the United States of America-Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) [2009 – 2010]
- Supporting Gender Equality and Women's Rights in Timor-Leste, Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Achievement Fund [2008 – 2012]
- Halt Exploitation and Learn to Prosecute (HELP): Timor-Leste – Phase II, Government of the United States of America-GTIP [2008 – 2009]
- Enhanced Migration Management for East Timor, Commonwealth of Australia-DIMIA [2005 – 2009]
- Halt Exploitation and Learn to Prosecute (HELP): Timor-Leste – Phase I, Government of the United States of America-GTIP [2007 – 2008]
- Leadership and Communication Capacity for National Renewal in Timor-Leste, World Bank [2007 – 2008]
Disaster Risk Reduction and Community Resilience Building
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. These vulnerabilities can severely affect livelihoods, food security, as well as lead to the possible migration of already marginalized communities.
IOM Timor-Leste, with funding support from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), has been implementing a series of projects since June 2012. The main objective has been to strengthen Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) capacities and enhance resilience at the national, municipality and community levels across Timor-Leste.
The projects are spread across most municipalities in Timor-Leste (Ainaro, Baucau, Bobonaro, Covalima, Ermera, Lautem, Manatuto, Manufahi and Viqueque). The main beneficiaries include the Ministry of Interior (MI), Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS), Secretariat of State for Civil Protection, National Disaster Management Directorate (NDMD), municipal and local governments, Municipality Disaster Management Committees (MDMCs), Suco (Village) Disaster Management Committees (SDMCs), communities particularly vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters and community radio stations.
The projects strived to empower vulnerable communities in Timor-Leste to mitigate and adapt to disasters and hazard-related shocks, improve institutional emergency response and coordination capacity between municipality (previously called ‘district’) and community levels, as well as enhance key partners and elements of Timor-Leste’s disaster risk management and response mechanisms’ capacity to respond to natural and man-made disasters.
In 2017, IOM has delivered emergency response and awareness raising campaigns in 28 sucos in seven municipalities reaching over 3,250 people. IOM has also conducted practical training for the contruction of keyhole gardens as part of a DRR educational program implemented in 26 schools, which contributed to improvements in food security and nutrition among the students as well as the local community.
The following year, during 2018, IOM has also worked with 15 community radio stations in 12 municipalities to provide risk communication training, expand the geographical coverage of disaster information dissemination, improve pre-disaster preparedness, enhance mitigation efforts, and increase public awareness of disaster risks and how to prepare for them.
IOM’s DRR and resilience building interventions aim to increase the resilience of communities to cope with disasters, as well as ensure that national and local authorities effectively manage displacement situations through advancing mobility-based strategies that promote community, household and personal disaster preparedness and appropriate risk mitigation behaviours.
IOM Timor-Leste, in partnership with the Civil Protection Directorate in the Ministry of Interior, initiated the Information Management System (IMS) database to provide a one-stop center for data that will benefit municipal and national disaster and emergency planning, programming and policy-making. It is a platform that is used to effectively strengthen information management and sharing on emergency and disaster incidents in Timor-Leste. It supports coordination efforts among partners providing support to individuals, households and communities affected by natural and man-made hazards. The IMS is also used to capture the number of individuals affected by displacement, also referred to as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This provides updated, current information on displacement and hazard events affecting Timor-Leste, thereby aiding in decision making, formulation and application of appropriate response or risk management measures.
In partnership with the U.S. Forestry Service (USFS) and the Ministry of Interior, IOM facilitated the introduction of the Incident Command System (ICS) in disaster management. ICS is focused on emergency response, and involved strengthening multi-stakeholder participation, information sharing, resource mobilization, centralized command and effective coordination in emergencies. Since 2018, a total of 45 government staff (first responders from the Civil Protection Directorate, NDMD, Fire Brigade and Police) have been trained in ICS. ICS training is ongoing, with plans to roll it to municipal and suco levels. This is meant to contribute to enhancing national capacity for managing emergencies through strengthening incident management mechanisms in Timor-Leste.
IOM’s DRR team will continue to work towards reducing and mitigating the risk of displacement through increasing national disaster management capacity, promoting community resilience, expanding public awareness and enhancing emergency response capabilities.
- Strengthening Institutional Capacity for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in Timor-Leste, Government of the United States of America-USAID-Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) [2018 – 2020]
- Strengthening Government of Timor-Leste Capacity for Disaster Management, Government of United States of America-United States Forest Service (USFS) [2016 – 2019]
- Disaster Risk Reduction Through Building Community Resilience (DRRBCR) in Timor-Leste – Phase III,[WJ7] [AE8] Government of the United States of America-OFDA [2016 – 2018]
- Disaster Risk Reduction Through Building Community Resilience (DRRBCR) in Timor-Leste – Phase II,[WJ9] [AE10] Government of the United States of America-OFDA [2014 – 2016]
- Disaster Risk Reduction Through Building Community Resilience (DRRBCR) in Timor-Leste– Phase I, Government of the United States of America-OFDA [2012 – 2013]
- IOM Support to Disaster Risk Reduction in Timor-Leste, Commonwealth of Australia-AusAID [2009 – 2011]
- Disaster Risk Management in Timor-Leste, Commonwealth of Australia-AusAID [2008 – 2009]
Timor-Leste is the highest tuberculosis (TB) burdened country in the whole Southeast Asian region. The Government of Timor-Leste, through the Ministry of Health (MoH), is striving to manage and eradicate this public health issue by working together with both national and international organizations. IOM Timor-Leste’s Migration Health team has[MO11] been supporting the Ministry’s National Tuberculosis Program by conducting systematic screenings for early detection of TB cases in selected municipalities.
When the program was initiated in 2017 it was the first of its kind, and it aims to ensure access to diagnoses and the initiation of treatment services for high risk groups living in the congregated settings and rural communities. Since the launch, and until the first quarter of 2019, IOM has screened 16,414 people and identified 85 cases, particularly in rural and border communities and highly mobile populations in Ermera and Bobonaro municipalities. Furthermore, IOM’s Migration Health team has conducted TB screenings in congregate settings in Dili, namely the defense forces, the police, prisons, universities and Catholic convents.
IOM has also been working with MoH and World Health Organization (WHO) to improve the TB screening algorithm in the country. The screening algorithm compromises of an awareness session introducing participants to the symptoms, risks, diagnosis and treatment for TB, the completion of a presumptive questionnaire with support from IOM’s Migration Health team to identify symptoms, followed by a chest X-ray if symptoms are present. If the X-ray is abnormal, on spot and morning sputum sample are taken for screening using GeneXpert and sent for DRS survey requested by National Tuberculosis Program. Besides the TB screenings, IOM provides training to health personnel and community representatives to improve health-seeking behavior and diagnostic abilities in Timor-Leste. Over the last couple years, IOM has trained more than 180 health personnel from Dili, Ermera and Bobonaro.
With funding from the European Union, IOM also constructed various water, sanitation and health (WASH), and other community infrastructure projects in rural areas of Timor-Leste. The program included over 50 water supply and irrigation projects, the construction of 6 primary schools and 5 community centers, and 3 major infrastructure rehabilitation projects in rural communities primarily in Baucau, Lautém and Viqueque.
- Systematic Screening for TB among High Risk Groups in Timor-Leste, The Global Fund (Government of Timor-Leste-Ministry of Health) [2017 – 2019]
- Community Stabilization in Timor-Leste, European Commission [2004 – 2006]
Main text: 7 July 2019
Facts and figures: July 2019