Subject: Resettlement money increased for displaced East Timorese

Radio Australia Connect Asia

Resettlement money increased for displaced East Timorese

Updated October 6, 2009 13:04:07

More than three years since fighting forced 150,000 East Timorese from their homes, hundreds of displaced families still live in temporary housing managed by humanitarian organisations.

In the past, East Timor's Government had been criticised for not offering enough support to help families return home, or find permanent housing. But a new push to resettle the families - which includes a substantial increase in resettlement money - seems to be working

Presenter: Beverley Wang Speakers: Alfredo Zamudio, country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in East Timor; Luis Vieira, country director for the International Office for Migration in East Timor * Listen: * <> Windows Media

(sound of gunshots)

BEVERLEY WANG: In May and June 2006, fighting between rival security factions threw East Timor into crisis.

By the time foreign forces intervened to help end the violence, thousands of houses had been burned and 150,000 had fled people fled their homes in fear.

Three years later, about 425 displaced families still live in temporary housing.

Alfredo Zamudio is the country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which manages the four remaining transitional housing sites.

BEVERLEY WANG: A 2007 progress report on IDP returns criticised the Government's reintegration strategy - citing a lack of housing and security as the main problems.

Recently, East Timor's government has made moves to encourage the remaining families to leave transitional housing - with the biggest incentive being an increase in housing resettlement payouts to help them find permanent homes.

Depending on the damage to their homes, remaining families are receiving $500 to $4,500 in recovery money. Those who previously did not have homes will receive $1,500.

Alfredo Zamudio says the increased support is working, and says it's likely the NRC will likely be able to close one of the transitional housing sites this week.

BEVERLEY WANG: Luis Vieira is the country director for the International Office (IOM)for Migration, which has been helping displaced people resettle.

He says in some cases families have returned to their home districts to find their houses destroyed or occupied by others. The IOM has been helping those families negotiate the return of their homes or seek other housing.

He says improved security in East Timor is also persuading families previously reluctant to leave transitional housing - to move on.

BEVERLEY WANG: East Timor's Ministry of Social Solidarity says it hopes to finish paying out the money by December 2009.

The NRC's agreement to manage the transitional housing sites ends at the end of this month. Alfredo Zamudio says if families remain after that - it's up to the government to decide what to do.

BEVERLEY WANG: But even if with a permanent roof over their heads, the return to normalcy is far from guaranteed. Alfredo Zamudio again:

NOTE: Radio Australia tried repeatedly to contact East Timor Secretary of State for Social Solidarity, Jacinto Rigoberto Gomes, to talk about the IDP housing, but was unsuccessful.

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