09 November 2020
As of 9 November 2020, there had been only 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Timor-Leste. The government has received praise for its effective containment of COVID-19, in the context of a health system that government officials were concerned would not be able to cope with a public health emergency due to its fledgling nature. A state of emergency was initially declared on 28 March. Timorese returning from overseas were subject to mandatory quarantine and quarantine isolation centres were established with the assistance of WHO. IOM also worked with the Ministry of Health to improve quarantine centre standards through the provision of necessary equipment and hygiene supplies.
During the week of 14 September 2020, IOM facilitated the return of 11 Vietnamese migrants from Timor-Leste. 8 men and 3 women were rescued by authorities after drifting at sea for days and landing at Jaco Island on 10 June. The migrants were placed into the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Vietnam, following which, they were assisted by IOM to return to their respective homes. Their return was organised through the Voluntary Returns Support and Reintegration Assistance for Bali Process Member States programme. According to IOM, since the start of the pandemic, 60 people have been assisted in 20 countries with assisted voluntary return through this programme.
Article 72 of Timor-Leste’s 2003 Immigration and Asylum Act provides that foreigners who enter or remain illegally in the national territory can be detained by any police officer for questioning. They must be taken before a competent Court within 48 hours of being detained. To date, the GDP has been unable to establish the extent to which detention facilities are used in Timor-Leste as part of immigration enforcement procedures or obtain details on COVID-19 related measures taken to safeguard people in immigration custody.
Timor-Leste is a signatory of the Refugee Convention and as of December 2015, the country hosted five asylum seekers and refugees. UNHCR has previously criticized Article 92 of the Immigration and Asylum Act, which requires that asylum seekers lodge their application within 72 hours of their arrival in Timor-Leste, for creating hardships and impediments to seeking asylum. In addition, the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), in its concluding observations in 2015, expressed concern at the lack of information regarding detention and expulsion measures against migrant workers and members of their families, particularly those in an irregular situation. The committee also expressed concern that “the existing detention facilities do not have adequate basic services, including food, health care and hygienic conditions, and that migrant workers detained for violations of immigration law are not held separately from prisoners.”
- Global Migration Data Portal, “Migration Governance Profile: The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste,” December 2019, https://migrationdataportal.org/overviews/mgi/timor-leste#0
- G. Neves, “Timor-Leste’s COVID-19 Response,” The Diplomat, 3 June 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/06/timor-lestes-covid-19-response/
- G. Neves, “Timor-Leste: The consequences of Covid-19,” Lowy Institute, 3 April 2020, https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/timor-leste-consequences-covid-19
- P. Parameswaran, “How Will COVID-19 Impact Timor-Leste’s Politics?,” 14 April 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/how-will-covid-19-impact-timor-lestes-politics/
- Republic of Timor-Leste, ”Immigration and Asylum Act,” 2003, http://timor-leste.gov.tl/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Law_2003_9_Immigration_and_Asylum_Act_.pdf
- UNHCR, “Submission by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees For the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Compilation Report – Universal Periodic Review: 2nd Cycle, 26th Session - Timor-Leste,” UNHCR, https://www.refworld.org/country,,,,TMP,,57fb98b24,0.html
- WHO, “WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard: Timor-Leste” 4 November 2020, https://covid19.who.int/region/searo/country/tl
- IOM, “COVID-19 RESPONSE: IOM Regional Office for Asia Pacific: Situation Report 3 - April 3, 2020,” April 2020, https://www.iom.int/sites/default/files/situation_reports/file/iom_roap_sitrep_covid-19_3.pdf
- Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, “Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of Timor-Leste,” C;W/C/TLS/CO/1, 8 October 2015, para. 31.
- IOM, “Standed Vietnamese Migrants Arrive Home Safely from Timor-Leste,” 18 September 2020, https://reliefweb.int/report/viet-nam/stranded-vietnamese-migrants-arrive-home-safely-timor-leste
- Mr. Joao Carlos Soares, General Director for Environment, Secretary of State for Environment, at a Handwashing Station in Dili, (European Commission, "Timor Leste: Strengthening the COVID-19 Response and Promoting Plastic Recycling," 21 August 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/international-partnerships/stories/timor-leste-strengthening-covid-19-response-and-promoting-plastic-recycling_en)