Heads up : should you come ? Yes/No

I will try to give a bit of current background to anyone thinking of coming or returning at the moment. This is targeted at returnees who may have left with a 10kg travel bag and left a household here. Also to short-term workers and anyone who really wants to visit as a tourist.

Most countries with a significant presence here have had government travel warnings advising against coming here and recommending that non-essential residents consider leaving. These have been in place at their current level for about 2 weeks now and remain in place. The major effect these advisories have is on travel insurance for private travellers and employer-based insurance for employees. The insurance companies do not want to carry the risk which is based almost entirely on these government travel warnings.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, there were good reasons for travel warnings but for about 10 or 12 days, there have been no security incidents of note affecting the expat community. The wide ranging rock fighting and general danger seemed to evaporate. However, the numbers in the IDP camps have increased. (There has been the odd localised incident in the Taibesse, Bairo Pite and Delta areas but nothing like the previous weeks.)

If you ask a few questions, you will find that the current warning state is based on recent history and threats which are assumed to be related to the forthcoming elections. So I can’t see the warnings lifted before the presidential elections scheduled for 9 April at the earliest.

Yet, right now, the streets seem as safe as they have ever been in the last 10 months. I dusted off the bicycle last week and felt perfectly fine. At night, the streets remain fairly deserted although it is debatable whether this is much different to “normal” anyway. The numbers in the bars and restaurants are down but not woefully low. A survey of home delivered pizza volumes would probably be a better indicator of expat activity.

The rice shortage situation is not over and living next to a rice warehouse is a highly undesirable activity. Chez Squatter has acquired a sack of rice at US$1-20 per kg which should last the rest of the year. Nevertheless, supplies to IDP camps are still limited.

Returnees would find it all quite OK but I think the main problem with first-time arrivals is that you just don’t know where to go or where not to go and when to do it. And knowing people who can tell you when something is “going down” is also important.

Despite all this, some people who left a week or so ago are returning, but not the international volunteer community for the moment.

On Friday, the presidential candidates all signed a declaration to play the election campaign fairly and to accept the results when they are known. Major Alfredo has gone quiet so maybe he has been closed down in the hills and is not in a position to get his mobile phone batteries re-charged.

Shopping supplies are fine. Coral reef snorkeling down the coast to the east was fine. I have heard rumours of a couple of expat businesses considering “pulling up stumps” but for the moment, it just seems a bit of a waiting game.

Hope this helps.  Just don’t sue me if everything goes bad again.  All the above applied 5 minutes ago.

Note for non-cricket playing nationals : “pulling up stumps” is a term based on the act of removing (at the end of play) some of the equipment used in the game of cricket. So it effectively means closing down for a significant period.

3 thoughts on “Heads up : should you come ? Yes/No

  1. Volunteers (that means me) aren’t able to return until they get the go ahead from their volunteer organisation – otherwise they are breaching their contract. As I understand it, we have to wait until the Australian Govt travel advisory goes back to 4, and then the situation will be assessed… Thanks for thinking about us and keeping us in the loop. (My mum told a friend I was evicted from East Timor – sounds more dramatic than evacuated, or least like I had some kind of role in it. The lack of control over decisions is one of the hardest things, I think, about an evacuation.)

  2. I tried to say it all as simply as possible and to cover the widest audience. Some friends & relatives appreciate it all distilled into one statement in plain English.

    I would think the return of some international groups is based on a simple economic argument. It may well be cheaper to get staff back here working and run the risk of another evacuation rather than pay them and have them sitting on their dates doing nothing in a hotel in Darwin. Two nights in Darwin covers an airfare. Add the value of work done here.

    Language note : “date” in the above text refers to “date locker”. That is the place where one stores dates (of the Middle Eastern eating variety). Think about it.

  3. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » East Timor: Should One Travel to East Timor

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