Update on IDP situation in Mimika – First IDPs return to their villages

In the past few days, 571 internally displaced persons from the villages Opitawak and Banti 1 have returned to the Tembagapura District. The return from Timika was facilitated by the Mimika local government and the mining company PT Freeport Indonesia in cooperation with the military. Papuan lawmaker, Laurenzus Kadepa, urged all parties not to restrict or disturb the villagers in and around their settlements after he received information that the IDPs were gathered in a shelter in Tembagapura and prevented to return to their homes. The vice-regent of Mimika Regency, Johannes Rettob, explained in an interview with the media outlet Jubi that all sick people, children, elderly people and pregnant women will for the time being not be allowed to return because they face higher health risks. All IDPs will reportedly receive a medical check-up before return.

In mid-December 2020, the head of Tembagapura District, Thobias Yawame, went to the villages Banti 1, Banti 2 and Opitawak to check the condition of houses and public facilities. According to Yawame, all buildings were intact, but doors, windows and the interior in some of the houses had been demolished. Moreover, the electricity network and freshwater supply in the villages Opitawak and Banti were damaged by landslides. Education and health facilities in the surrounding area were dysfunctional. Yawame declared that the Mimika local Government has agreed to send basic food supplies like rice, sugar and eggs to the villages until the situation has come back to normal.

 

Background

Approximately 1,750 IDPs have been stranded in Timika without humanitarian support from the central, provincial or local government since March 2020. In December 2020, the IDPs repeatedly urged the local Government to allow them to return to Tembagapura. The Jakarta-based NGO Lokataru, which assisted the IDPs in Mimika to access humanitarian services and demand a prompt return of IDPs to Tembagapura, has documented the deaths of 23 IDPs since their displacement in March 2020.