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Timor-Leste 2017 Crime & Safety Report

East Asia & Pacific > Timor-Leste; East Asia & Pacific > Timor-Leste > Dili

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Dili does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

Please review OSAC’s Timor-Leste webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DILI AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Timor-Leste is the second youngest country in the world, and its security and law enforcement capacity continues to evolve. International assistance is helping develop law enforcement entities and professionalize the military. Ongoing challenges for the security sector include large numbers of unemployed youth, Martial Arts Groups, and the capacity of the local security services.

Crime Threats

Due to extreme poverty and high unemployment, crimes of opportunity occur frequently in Dili, particularly at night. The most common crimes include pickpocketing, purse snatching, car invasion/theft, and assault.

Reported data suggests that most violent crime is Timorese-on-Timorese. Despite the significant socio-economic disparity within the country, violence targeting expatriates is relatively low. Sexual harassment and groping of females is reported regularly.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime is not common. Internet infrastructure continues to grow mainly through mobile subscriptions; approximately one-third of the population accesses the Internet, primarily via cell phones. A strong 4G data network is widely available, except in remote areas of the country. As the utilization of technology increases, so too will the threat of cybercrime.

Other Areas of Concern

Street gangs affiliated with Martial Arts Groups (MAGs) are present, but the government has banned most of their activities and, with the aid of the NGO community, continues to monitor them closely. Gang violence flares up occasionally, but it primarily takes place between rival MAGs.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Roads in Dili are in fairly good condition. The further out from Dili one is, the more hazardous the route is likely to be. The combination of poor road conditions, an increased number of vehicles, and poor driver competency increases the possibility of traffic accidents. Travelers should use extreme caution when venturing out at night. During the rainy season (October-March), driving can be very hazardous due to the risk of flash flooding.

The roads outside of the Dili district are especially perilous because of mountainous terrain, poor road maintenance, and sparse law enforcement and medical response personnel. Because of the country’s rudimentary infrastructure, it can take a long time to transport people from the scene of an accident to a medical facility.

Public Transportation Conditions

Travelers using local taxis should always negotiate the fare before getting in the vehicle. In 2016, a new company operated by Corrotrans established a dispatched- and metered-cab service, but it only services Dili. Travelers are advised not to enter occupied taxis and not to allow drivers to pick up other passengers along the way. There have been reports of taxi drivers robbing or sexually groping passengers.

Travelers should avoid using shared-ride microlet buses, as they are often over-crowded and are frequently involved in accidents. Microlets, moto taxis, and taxis have been known to drive recklessly and often do not adhere to traffic laws.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The Nicolau Lobato International Airport (DIL) is 6.2 km outside of DiIi in the city’s northwest corner, which includes the Comoro neighborhood. The airport is west of the Comoro River. A single bridge connects the main part of the city to this area and the airport, but another is planned for completion in 2017. The airport is relatively small. The runway is only 1,850 meters (approximately 6,000 feet) by 30 meters. There are no radar capabilities or permanent runway lights, allowing only daylight operations. Planes as large as a Boeing 757 have landed but not on a regular basis due to weight and hard braking considerations. The airport includes facilities for helicopters.

The passenger terminal is a single, one-story building in the center of the south side of the airport and includes a Distinguished Visitor's lounge directly east of the general passenger terminal. Timor-Leste Customs and Immigration checkpoints are in the main passenger terminal.

Other Travel Conditions

Ferries are a common method of travel to the western enclave of Oecussi and to the island of Atauro. Ferries are generally crowded beyond recommended capacity, according to U.S. Coast Guard standards. Travelers are encouraged to avoid ferries whenever possible and to explore by other means of travel (water taxi, car, air).

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DILI AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

No indigenous terrorist organizations operate in Timor-Leste, and there are no known transnational terrorist groups operating in Timor-Leste.

  • In 2015, a grenade was thrown at a U.S. diplomatic residence, but no group claimed responsibility, and no perpetrators have been identified.


Local police and security services have increased their vigilance in monitoring the border with Indonesia and are proactively cooperating with Indonesian police to share information in order to prevent terrorism from spreading into Timor-Leste.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Americans may sometimes be mistaken for Australians, who may be subjected to anti-Australian sentiment related to a boundary dispute between Timor-Leste and Australia. That dispute was the subject of a large protest outside the Australian Embassy in April 2016.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DILI AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Timor-Leste has experienced periodic domestic disturbances since independence from Indonesia in 1999. At no time, however, has there been political violence specifically directed against official U.S. government interests.

The country held local elections in 2016 without major security incidents and will hold presidential elections in March 2017 and parliamentary elections in July. The 2017 elections will be the first held since the departure of the UN Mission; however, security officials do not anticipate a return to levels of violence seen in 2007. The 2012 elections, held with UN and international military support, were markedly more peaceful than those held in 2007.

Civil Unrest

As Timor-Leste continues to develop and address the challenges of constructing a nation, the possibility of civil disobedience and unrest remains a concern. The nation last experienced serious civil unrest related to fighting between the police (PNTL) and military (F-FDTL) from 2006-2008.

Militants who were part of the independence movement but not reconciled to the political situation represent a continuing source of potential conflict. Violence related to political actions by the militarist Maubere Revolutionary Council (KRM) in Baucau district in 2015 did not target or directly affect foreigners, but the possibility of fighting that could result in collateral harm to foreigners or business interests. In recent years, instances of civil unrest resulting from excessive force by the police and military have typically been quelled peacefully.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Timor-Leste has experienced earthquakes, but none have reached devastating proportions in recent years.

Flash flooding is a concern during the rainy season, especially in districts outside Dili where the mountainous terrain creates the potential for landslides.

Critical Infrastructure

Timor-Leste’s infrastructure is not built to withstand natural disasters. The loss of services (food, sanitation, utilities) in a large-scale natural disaster could lead to a rapid deterioration of law and order. Any disaster that closed or significantly reduced the operations of the port or fuel terminal would lead to immediate shortages of basic foodstuffs and fuel.

The government has made major investments in upgrading its infrastructure. A new port planned in Tibar Bay (10 km west of Dili) will increase cargo capacity and ease congestion in the country’s only operational port, stimulating economic activity by easing the movement of goods. The construction of the port is planned to start in October 2017 and is expected to take three years to complete.

The government is improving its road system as part of the Asian Development Bank-assisted Road Network Upgrading Sector Project, which aims to accelerate economic opportunities, promote private sector growth, increase agricultural productivity, and reduce poverty.

Economic Concerns

The U.S. dollar is the currency in Timor-Leste. Several cases of low-tech counterfeiting have been reported. Individuals have also been caught with counterfeit notes brought in from other countries.

Drug-related Crimes

Timor-Leste is seen as a transit point for drugs, but the country has experienced relatively limited distribution or production.

Police Response

Law and order remains a top priority of the government, with primary responsibility falling to the National Police Timor-Leste (PNTL). The PNTL’s capacity is limited but improving, with assistance from bilateral partners, including the U.S. government. The PNTL has been developing its community policing capacity and is slowly beginning to build its capabilities in the areas of criminal investigation, personnel/facility protection, and traffic control.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Foreigners could be detained for an extended period should they become involved with the legal system. While police detention and harassment is not a systemic problem, the nascent legal system can lead to prolonged delays with adverse effects on foreigners. Foreigners should request that their respective embassy be notified.

Crime Victim Assistance

The PNTL’s emergency call center can be reached by dialing 112 in Dili. Police are slow to respond to calls for emergency assistance or initiate investigations into crimes against individuals. Nonetheless, victims of crime are encouraged to file police reports to help document the level of criminal activity.

Medical Emergencies

Medical care remains substandard in Dili. Ambulances can be dispatched using the 112 emergency phone number but should not be expected to respond in a timely matter.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

The Dili National Hospital and Stamford Medical can dispatch an ambulance, but it may not have a physician, nurse, and/or attendant/resuscitation equipment.

The Guido Valadares National Hospital in Dili can handle certain emergencies and is open 24-hours a day and is accessible to the public. Tel: +670 331 1008

The Stamford clinic is a private medical facility that has limited resources for dealing with medical emergencies. It offers an ambulance service that is for paid subscribers only and is limited to Dili. Tel: 331-0140 (regular business hours), 7772-1111 (after-hours emergency)

Hospitals in Timor-Leste

Guido Valadares National Hospital; tel: +670 331 1008

Baucau Hospital; tel: +670 413 0024

Viqueque Hospital; tel: +670 433 0011

Lospalos Hospital; tel: +670 443 0009

Manatuto Hospital; tel: +670 423 0009

Aileu Hospital; tel: +670 373 0011

Same Hospital; tel: +670 213 0011

Ainaro Hospital; tel: +670 243 0111

Suai Hospita; tel: +670 223 0011

Maliana Hospital; tel: +670 233 0012

Liquica Hospital; tel: +670 363 0012

Ermera Hospital; tel: +670 383 0013

 

Hospitals in Singapore

Gleneagles Hospital, 6 Napier Rd., Singapore; tel: (65) 6735 5000

Mt. Elizabeth Hospital, 3 Mt. Elizabeth Place, Singapore

Raffles Hospital, 585 North Bridge Road, Singapore; tel: (65) 6311 1111 or 6311 5555

 

Hospitals in Indonesia

SOS Medika Klinik Bali

Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai 505 X

Kuta, Bali 80221

Tel: +62 361 720 100

 

Australia

Royal Darwin Hospital, Rocklands Drive

Tiwi, Northern Territory 0810, Australia

Tel: (08) 8922 8888; email: rdh.ths@nt.gov.au

 

Available Air Ambulance Services

 

Careflight International (Emergency non-member service)

24/7 Emergency Line: (+61) 1300 655 855

General Inquiries: (+61) 2 9893 7683; fax: (+61) 2 9689 2744

Email: international@careflight.org

Web: www.careflight.org 

Can be in Dili within 3 hours from phone call (2 hours activation, 1 hour flight)

Typical price: $25,000 AUD (approximately $20,000 USD) to Darwin hospital bed to hospital bed. Transfer to Singapore around $58,000 AUD (approximately $47,000 USD)

 

International SOS (Membership required)

24/7 emergency line in Singapore: (+65) 6338 7800 or (+65) 6338 9277

General inquiries/sales: +1 800 523 8662 or +1 215 942 8333

Web: www.internationalsos.com   

Membership can be purchased which allows access to their air ambulance. 

 

AirMed (Membership required)

24/7 emergency line: +1 800 356 2161 or +1 205 443 4880

Fax: +1 205 443 4841

Web: www.airmed.com   

Membership can be purchased which allows access to their services. 

Insurance Guidance

All travelers are advised to purchase insurance to cover medical evacuation in case of a serious accident, injury, or illness. Medical evacuation can be extremely costly depending on the severity of the situation, so all travelers should ensure their policies provide sufficient coverage.

Persons who plan to enjoy Timor-Leste’s diving should purchase divers’ insurance.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Travelers are advised to see a physician prior to travelling to ensure that appropriate immunizations and precautions are taken, including medications for malaria prophylaxis if traveling outside of Dili.

Zika virus is potentially endemic in Timor-Leste; the risk to travelers is unknown but is likely lower than in areas where Zika virus is newly introduced and spreading widely.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Timor-Leste.

OSAC Country Council Information

An OSAC Country Council for Timor-Leste launched in early 2017. Any U.S. owned or incorporated company or non-governmental organization registered in the United States that operates in Timor-Leste is eligible to be part of the Country Council. To reach OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team, please email OSACEAP@state.gov.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Dili
Avenida de Portugal
Praia dos Coqueiros, Dili

Hours: Mon- Fri, 0800-1700 (except U.S. and local holidays)

Embassy Contact Numbers

Switchboard: +670-332-4684

Regional Security Officer: +670-332-2056

Consular Officer: +670-332-4684

Duty Officer: +670-723-1328 (for U.S. citizens with after-hours emergencies)

Website: http://timor-leste.usembassy.gov/ 

Embassy Guidance

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at travel.state.gov. STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you do not have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Read the Country Specific Information for Timor-Leste. For additional information, refer to the “Traveler’s Checklist” on the State Department’s website.

Additional Resources

Timor-Leste Country Information