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Home arrow Economics arrow Children and Forced Migration: Durable Solutions During Transient Years


This chapter has examined the failure of resettlement programs for East Timorese ex-refugees in Naibonat, which has caused acutely precarious conditions for the younger generation and forced them to perform tactical bricolage; this often involves violent activities as members of martial arts groups in order to gain recognition. The Indonesian government fails to fully integrate East Timorese with the “locals,” resulting in discrimination and disparity among them that still are profoundly present. Prolonged social exclusion hinders youths from gaining recognition, which triggers them to do “anything possible” to secure their condition both in Indonesia and Timor Leste. Given the unsteady conditions that they encounter in Indonesia, these youths are open to the possibility of searching for opportunities in Timor Leste.

Against the perception that safety (i.e., legal safety, physical security, material security) and dignity in durable solutions has not already been met, the motivations and stories of the youths joining perguruans have shown that what they really are looking for is recognition as equal citizens in Indonesia. Considering that a perguruan is often associated with a political party, militia, and platform to channel struggles to gain rights, these groups can be seen as an arena in which to prove masculinity and the ability to contribute to “their people.” Though the youths have a convincing willingness for self-dignity, they still must follow their predecessors and join perguruans because of the lack of opportunities offered. Drawing on the youths’ stories, the discussions revolve around the issue of access to rights, political belonging, and identity not only as communal citizens but also as national and transnational citizens. This chapter has argued that formal citizenship is crucial for any displaced persons, migrants, or refugee; yet, it will not convey any significant meaning unless they achieve substantial citizenship for political, social, and economic access as well as achieve recognition as citizens.

To conclude, resettlement and local integration as durable solutions must be organized comprehensively; not only through formal assistance programs but also through arranged activities and projects to eradicate stigma and mistrust between “locals” and the East Timorese. First, the Indonesian government must be held responsible for regulating the legal status of all East Timorese ex-refugees. Second, the local governments of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), by coordination with the central government, must fulfill the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of all East Timorese. In the context of programs that the youths organize, in particular, it is necessary to always consider various opinions. Third, encouragement of the broader civil society, including provincial NGOs and local media (e.g., newspapers, radio program, or TV) in Kupang must be developed so that in these open spaces it will be possible for youths to express themselves and be represented in a positive light.

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