Subject: SBS Transcript: East Timor Moves To Close Tent Cities

Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) [Australia]

July 28, 2008


East Timor Moves To Close Tent Cities

East Timor's government has taken the first steps towards closing one of its biggest tent camps for internally displaced people. Following months of delay, officials have started sending people home after accommodating them at the airport for two years. It's part of an ambitious plan to close all camps by the end of the year. It's home away from home. An estimated 35,000 internally displaced people are still living in tents in and around the capital, Dili. But two years after the camps were set up the UN mission and the government are anxious to see them closed before they become a permanent fixture. They have already cut food rations and are offering camp dwellers up to $4,500 to go and rebuild their lives. But it's not that simple.

MATILDA, INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSON (TRANSLATION): It's going to be November before we can go and by then it will be the rainy season. Our home has been destroyed and it has not been repaired yet. So, when we go, we'll still be living in a tent.

The World Food Program says that 87% of people here don't have a home to go to. They have been destroyed or have been illegally occupied.

VITOR, INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSON (TRANSLATION): We will go any day, but we are worried some political parties are going to create more conflict. We hope they can avoid that and take us out soon.

Agencies say there is evidence of lingering hostility, and not everyone is using government money to rebuild their homes. There also concerns about whether villagers will stay home once they get there.

LIUZ VIEIRA, INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION OFFICE CHIEF: Are the returns that have happened so far sustainable? I don't know. I don't think anyone can answer that definitively. There are a lot of community dynamics that need to be addressed. For example, to what extent the issue of east and west divisions have been adequately addressed. Is there something beneath the surface that's bubbling up? That's something all of us have to keep an eye on.

Amid growing tensions over perceived government corruption, and with a sensitive investigation under way into the assault on the country's leaders, peace here is far from assured. Gary Cox, World News Australia.

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