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Refugee status period has ended, however TL doors stay open

Dili Weekly - January 18, 2013

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Luis Guterres said Timor-Leste will continue to accept Timorese who sought refugee status in Indonesia even though the time limit has expired.

"According to our constitution everyone born in Timor-Leste is considered a Timorese citizen. Their ancestral homes are here and they are still able to return even though the refugee status time limit has ended," said the minister recently in Dili.

The minister raised this issue in response to the demands by Timorese refugees residing in Indonesia at the closing of the campaign against violence and discrimination against women in the border town of Atabae.

Guterres said the government already had plans to resolve this issue. "This is because we Timorese do not want to see our brothers and sisters suffering across the border," he said.

MP Adriano Joao said the government cannot refuse entry to some of the people who fled to Indonesia during the violent conflict in 1999. "It is time for reconciliation, to look forward so the government and the parliament will not prevent anyone from returning to Timor-Leste," said the MP.

MP Arao Noe said the constitution states anyone whose parents were born in Timor-Leste are Timorese citizens, so those who fled to Indonesia and are welcome to return.

"If they want to return they can, as it is allowed for in the constitution and the law, however individuals responsible for crimes in 1999 will have to be brought to justice," said Noe.