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More than 100 Timor-Leste’s stolen children reunited with loved ones

More than 100 Timor-Leste’s stolen children reunited with loved ones

Zequelina "Arsica" Soares (One of the Stolen Children, wearing a hijab) and her mother Anita Soares buying some food along the coastal road of Timor-Leste capital city, Dili, two days before Arsica goes back to Indonesia/Image Tjitske Lingsma

DILI, 02 january 2024 (TATOLI) – More than 100 of Timor-Leste’s Stolen Children have been reunited with their parents and loved ones after living apart for decades.

These stolen children were able to return home to see their loved ones, thanks to the assistance, efforts, and collaboration between NGOs and Red Cross of both Timor-Leste and Indonesia.

These children were taken by force, against their will, during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, starting from 1975.

According to the data of the CAVR, during the Indonesian occupation, at least 4,000 children were forcibly removed from their families and taken illegally to Indonesia.

“Military abducted children from their families to break the resistance, to use them as child soldiers or servants at home,” said CAVR.

The “separation of a child from its true identity, culture, ethnicity, religion or language” is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and constitutes a war crime, reported Chega!

“So far, we have managed to find and reunite more than 100 stolen children with their parents and loved ones in Timor-Leste,” said Chega! Executive Director, Hugo Maria Fernandes.

“So far we have been able to find and reunited more than 100 stolen children with their parents and loved ones in Timor-Leste,” said Chega! Executive Director, Hugo Maria Fernandes.

He said that since 2017, 59 stolen children have been returned home: “Of the 59 stolen children, 15 were returned home in 2017, nine in 2018, 14 in 2019, 16 in 2022 and five in 2023.

“We will continue to work with NGOs and the Red Cross in both countries to find and identify more stolen children to be reunited with their loved ones,” Fernandes pledged. 

The transfer of children was a practice sanctioned by the military and civilian authorities, involving individuals and later on military and religious institutions that facilitated this process.

 

Journalist: Camilio de Sousa

Editor: Filomeno Martins 

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