AFP personnel in Timor-Leste

AFP personnel in Timor-Leste


Australian Federal Police (AFP) operations in Timor began in support of the UNAMET mission and the 1999 referendum on Timor’s political future. By 2000, over 250 AFP officers had served in the territory.

Number wound down after 2000, but more deployments began after the crisis of April / May 2006, when the AFP sent a Scoping Advisory Mission in May 2006 to assess the situation on the ground. On 28 May 2006, AFP police, forensic experts and protection services (including members of the Operational Response Group) began deploying to Timor-Leste, eventually reaching a contingent of 200.

By mid-2008, the AFP had 66 personnel in Timor including:

There have been significant tensions between Australia and the United Nations over the command and co-ordination of police training programs in Timor. The creation of the UN police (UNPOL) in 2007 was supposed to ease this problem. In January 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Government of Timor-Leste, the United Nations and Australia: UNPOL assumed responsibility for mentoring and phasing in of the Police Nacional Timor-Leste (PNTL), superseding the TLPDP program.

However further AFP members are scheduled to be deployed for police training under the TLPDP even though Australia has committed to supporting UNPOL until 2010.

Government Sources


Extra AFP Personnel to Support East Timor, Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus, Media release, Wednesday 2 July 2008

The Australian Government’s commitment to developing a more effective police force for East Timor began today, with two Australian Federal Police personnel departing Australia under funding announced in the Budget. Starting with today’s deployment, the AFP will gradually build its contribution to 80 personnel with the Timor-Leste Police Development Program over the coming year. The aim is to help build the foundations for a more effective and accountable police service for the people of East Timor. The growth in the Program is a sign of confidence in the work that the Australian Federal Police and Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste are doing together.

The two members, a financial expert and a police adviser, will join 12 AFP members who are already working in East Timor with the TLPDP. The AFP received $53.7 million over two years to strengthen the TLPDP to provide literacy and general police education to improve skills and executive management.”

Press conference with Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Dili, 15 February 2008

…on the question on the AFP, of course they operate within the overall framework of UNPOL and the ADF of course will operate separately, but the overall mission statement here is clear and that is to work, to enhance the security of East Timor and to do so in response to the request of this democratically-elected government and independent state. Our job is to enhance security here but to do so always in partnership and response to the request of the government.”

Annual Report 2007-08, Australian Federal Police, p6

On the operational front, the AFP’s International Deployment Group continued its work to strengthen regional and international stability, providing intervention and capacity building programs to countries such as Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands. In addition to contributing to the maintenance and development of law and order, specialist tactical staff were deployed to Timor-Leste following assassination attempts on President Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Gusmao in February 2008.”


UNMIT Briefing Kit, UNMIT website, September 2007 

There are currently 50 Community Police from Australia serving under UN Command.


AFP deploys to East Timor, AFP media release, Sunday, 28 May 2006

“The Australian Federal Police (AFP) can confirm a 45-member team will be deployed to East Timor tomorrow in support of the Australian Defence Force led effort to stabilise the country. The team will be in addition to a six-member AFP advisory group which arrived in Dili in the early hours of this morning. The AFP members will be assessing the current situation on the ground in East Timor and providing advice to the Australian Defence Force in relation to law and justice issues.

“The further 45 members will depart from Canberra and arrive in country tomorrow to provide additional advisory capacity. This will bring the total number of AFP officers in East Timor to 57. The members will work closely with local and other international law enforcement agencies who may contribute to the stabilisation efforts.”

Timor-Leste, Current Deployments, Australian Federal Police website.

“Following unrest in Dili in April and May 2006, and at the invitation of the Government of Timor-Leste (GOTL), the AFP deployed around 200 AFP and State/Territory members to Timor-Leste, to primarily assist with the restoration of law and order within the urban areas of Dili. UNMIT was part of a multi-national police presence formed to return stability to Timor-Leste as part of the International Security Force.”


Police Overseas Service Medals – East Timor, AFP media release, 8 August 2000

“AFP officers were amongst the first international contingents into East Timor, having served there since July 1999, when they played a significant role in the successful conduct of the self-determination ballot,” Senator Vanstone said. “It was in fact, only the unarmed civilian police, mostly Australian and led by an Australian, who refused to give up when others were ready to leave East Timor. They stood between armed militia and the defenceless people of East Timor. Without that group and their willingness, or determination, to hold on in a desperate and dangerous situation, the United Nations may have in fact withdrawn. More than 250 Australian police have now served in East Timor, as part of an ongoing commitment by the Australian government to the restoration of peace and democracy in the new nation.”

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