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East Timor

The Situation
East Timor is a source and destination country for human trafficking.

There were reports of an attempt to traffic East Timorese women to Syria in October 2006. However, the traffickers were detained after a UN police investigation.1 

East Timor is a destination country for women who are trafficked from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) for commercial sexual exploitation.2 The majority of trafficking victims in East Timor are coerced into sexual exploitation and there have been no reliable reports of trafficking victims for forced labor.3  There are no recent reliable estimates of the number of trafficking victims, although some estimate that the number of foreign trafficking victims have remained the same. In 2004 a local NGO estimated that 115 foreign sex workers in Dili were possibly trafficked.

Internal Trafficking
East Timor has internal trafficking of women and girls from rural areas to Dili for sexual exploitation. There are unverified reports of internal trafficking of men for forced labor. There are concerns that internal trafficking could increase because of long-term internal displacement and increased presence of international peacekeepers.4  

The East Timorese Government
The East Timorese Government was placed in Tier 2 in the 2007 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but making significant efforts to do so. The East Timorese government efforts are hindered by its current political crisis. There are reports of police and custom officials who are complicit in the trafficking of foreign women to brothels and massage parlors in Dili.5

The East Timorese Government does not have a penal code that comprehensively criminalizes human trafficking. However, the 2003 Immigration and Asylum Act prohibits trafficking in women and children, for prostitution and forced labor.6

The East Timorese government has not prosecuted any traffickers. East Timor currently relies on international police, prosecutors and judges. The East Timorese police have investigated reports of suspected trafficking victims but not taken any legal action.7   In March 2006, the police conducted a raid against an establishment in Dili in which a Philippine victim was forced into sexual exploitation. Eight additional victims from the P.R.C. and Indonesia were rescued, and suspected traffickers were arrested. However, the Office of the Prosecutor General dismissed the case without any indictments. In January 2007, the UN police arrested two men suspected of attempting to traffic East Timorese women to Syria.8

The East Timorese Government provides limited victim protection and relies on international organizations. Foreign trafficking victims can request refugee status or repatriated within in 10 days with assistance with travel documents. Several trafficking victims have been repatriated with the help of their embassies or international organizations.9   An East Timorese NGO, the Alola Foundation, provided assistance to female trafficking victims and advised the government on trafficking issues.10 

The East Timorese Government does not fund any prevention programs. However, the government has cooperated with NGOs and international organizations to raise awareness. In 2005 UN authorities and the government established a working group headed by the International Organization for Migration to monitor and control trafficking.11 

The U.S. Department of State recommends that as the East Timor legal system develops in the coming years and takes over functions handled by international officials, the government should focus on law enforcement efforts against trafficking, including specialized training of officials in investigating, prosecuting, and obtaining convictions of traffickers. The government should devote considerably more resources to prevention, rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of trafficking victims, as government finance and project management capabilities develop in the coming years and as reliance on international organizations diminishes.12


1   2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
2  2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
3  2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
4  2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
5  2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
6  2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
7  Freedom House: Countries at the Crossroads 2006
8  2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
9  2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
10  2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
11  2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
12  2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report


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