Emergency humanitarian aid in favour of the people of Timor Leste affected by internal conflict

Situation Report
Originally published


Location of operation: EAST TIMOR
Amount of Decision: EUR 3,000,000
Decision reference number: ECHO/TMP/BUD/2006/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

Four years after Timor Leste achieved independence in 2002, the apparent stability that the country seemed to enjoy has suddenly given way to civil strife and communal violence. The crisis began with the dismissal in March 2006 of 591 soldiers, representing 35% of the Timorese army. From late April to June 2006, the tensions have gradually unfolded, with demonstrations demanding the removal of elected leaders and turning into riots, gangs with guns and machetes terrorising the population of the capital Dili and occupying government buildings, looting and burning houses, shops and warehouses, murdering people, and attacking security forces. The unrest has allowed a lingering civil and political crisis to surface at a wider scale.

On 30 May 2006, President Xanana Gusmao declared a state of emergency for 30 days, assuming direct control of the armed forces. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have both resigned. Tensions between the most prominent actors of the Timorese political scene are continuing. The political situation is expected to remain instable until the next presidential and parliamentary elections in mid 2007. In addition, a contention between the Lorosaes (Easterners) and the Loromonos (Westerners) in the country, a previously unknown factor contributing to the crisis, has appeared, adding further complexity to the situation.

In response to the latest round of violence, the Government of Timor Leste officially requested international support. Despite the arrival of some 2,500(1) foreign troops from Australia, Portugal, New Zealand and Malaysia in May, which has contributed to restoring a certain level of order in Dili, the security situation remains tense and volatile. The economy in Dili and beyond is halted.

The immediate result of these violent events is that the population of Dili has been fleeing their homes and moved to the relative safety of improvised Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps. Camps have sprung up quite anarchically around churches, convents and other places, like schools, international agencies, diplomatic compounds and posts of security forces. As of 15 June 2006, 35 IDP camps in Dili counted 68,296 persons(2). In addition, another 70,000 people(3) are estimated to have fled Dili to stay in camps or with relatives or friends. One can assume that half of the capital's population has been displaced.


(1) Approximately 2,000 Australian Forces, 330 Malaysian Forces, 160 New Zealand forces, 120 Portuguese police

(2) Source: camp registration from the Inter-agency Humanitarian Coordination Group (HCG): UN agencies, CONCERN, CARE, WorldVision, Cruz Vermelha Timor Leste, Plan International, Catholic Relief Services, CARITAS, OXFAM

(3) Source: estimation from the HCG, based on information from Government (district and sub-district administrations) and other sources (local and international NGOs and community-based organizations)