Travel Warning – Timor-Leste

Published by Chris Harvey January 24, 2008

United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

September 12, 2007

This Travel Warning is being updated to inform Americans of continued potential for violence in Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor) and to warn American citizens to defer travel to Timor-Leste at this time.  Americans currently in Timor-Leste should evaluate carefully their safety and security situation in light of this Travel Warning.  This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on May 11, 2007.

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens of the continuing potential for violent civil unrest in Timor-Leste.  U.S. citizens should defer travel to Timor-Leste at this time.  Those already in Timor-Leste should exercise extreme caution and maintain a high level of security awareness while moving about in Dili; be alert to the potential for violence; and avoid demonstrations, large gatherings, and areas where disturbances have occurred.  Demonstrations can occur at or near symbols and institutions of the Government of Timor-Leste, including government buildings and houses belonging to prominent politicians. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.

Since April 2006, Timor-Leste has experienced outbreaks of politically-related civil unrest, and the risk of further violent unrest continues.  Although parliamentary elections were held in a largely peaceful atmosphere in June, violent disturbances broke out in several areas of Dili and in the Eastern districts of Baucau and Viqueque after the President’s August 6, 2007, announcement of the new government.  A UN convoy traveling from Baucau to Viqueque was ambushed by rock throwers.  Private, diplomatic, and UN vehicles also have been pelted with rocks throughout Dili.  Areas affected included Dili’s international airport and its surroundings, disrupting access to and from the airport.  Violence has occurred in the areas around internally displaced persons camps near the Comoro market and Bairo Pite, and could erupt again without warning.  American citizens passing through these areas should exercise caution.  Americans remaining in Timor-Leste despite this warning should monitor the media for updates on the safety and security situation, and check the status of flights before traveling to the airport.

After the collapse of civil order in April and May 2006, international troops and police arrived.  The security situation improved, but serious security concerns remain:

Indiscriminate communal violence continues throughout the country.  Gang-related violence occurs often in Dili, and Americans risk intentional or inadvertent injury.  Stone-throwing attacks on vehicles are frequent, and have affected American citizens on several occasions.

Several areas of Dili have become sites of chronic security incidents, particularly around the camps for internally displaced persons.  Americans are advised to avoid these areas and check with the U.S. Embassy regarding other areas of concern.

Sexual assaults against foreign nationals have occurred.  Female travelers are advised to exercise particular caution and to avoid travel alone on foot or in taxis, especially at night and in unfamiliar or isolated areas. 

Criminal violence remains a problem.  Criminals continue to operate illegal checkpoints in some areas of Dili, frequently stopping taxis and minibuses to extort money from drivers and passengers.In some cases, Timorese are identified for more violent targeting.  American citizens are advised against using taxis or minibuses for transportation.

The Government of Australia has advised its citizens against travel to East Timor, and warns that Australians and Australian interests may be specifically targeted.  Attackers could indiscriminately target foreigners, including Americans.  The Australian travel advice can be viewed at http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/East_Timor.

Americans in Timor-Leste should immediately register at the U.S. Embassy and obtain all recent messages sent to the American community in Timor-Leste.  The U.S. Embassy in Dili can be reached at 670-332-4684 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. local time or the duty officer outside business hours at 670-723-0949.  The U.S. Embassy is located on Avenida de Portugal in the Pantai Kelapa area.  U.S. citizens living in or traveling to Timor-Leste can also register through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov/, where the current Worldwide Cautions, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found.  Travelers should also consult the Department of State’s latest Country Specific Information for Timor-Leste.  Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada.  Callers outside of the United States and Canada may call a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except on U.S. federal holidays).

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