Cablegate: Cote D'ivoire: Unhcr Preparing for June Deadline

DE RUEHAB #0293/01 0780957
R 190957Z MAR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 17135

1. Summary: The Abidjan-based Refugee Coordinator
(RefCoord) for West Africa traveled with Lou Mazel, DCM
Monrovia, and Mohamud Osman, USAID/FFP Dakar, from February
25 to March 3 to visit WFP and UNHCR offices in Cote d'Ivoire
(Tabou, Guiglo) and Liberia (Harper) and to meet with
refugees and NGO partners. The U.S. mission discussed
Liberian repatriation and assistance issues and met with
agencies working with internally displaced populations
(IDPs). UNHCR appears set to engage in a strong promotional
campaign leading up to the June 2007 assisted repatriation
deadline for Liberian refugees. USAID/FFP will send a
separate food security report covering the regions visited.
End Summary.

2. The Abidjan-based Refugee Coordinator (RefCoord) for West
Africa traveled with Lou Mazel, DCM Monrovia, and Mohamud
Osman, USAID/FFP Dakar, from February 25 to March 3 to visit
WFP and UNHCR offices in Cote d'Ivoire (Tabou, Guiglo) and
Liberia (Harper) and to meet with refugees and NGO partners
working in the field. RefCoord and USAID/FFP officer also
visited several villages in the Zone of Confidence that had
seen population displacement as well as a center in
Yamoussoukro housing some 350 internally displaced persons

UNHCR Return Figures From Cote d'Ivoire

3. UNHCR reports they assisted a total of 3,476 Liberian
refugees return to Liberia in 2006, a sharp decrease from
their 2005 figure of 13,501 assisted returns. The majority
of returns in 2006 came from Tabou (2,643), followed by
Guiglo (772) and Abidjan (61). UNHCR also reports they are
providing direct assistance in Cote d'Ivoire to only about
2,000 vulnerable Liberian refugees. RefCoord discussed these
figures with Saber Azam, UNHCR Representative, and Buti Kale,
UNHCR Deputy Representative, and stressed that PRM expected
to see full attention to the Liberia repatriation process
leading up to the June 2007 deadline for assisted return
(ref. A). Azam promised RefCoord that UNHCR is fully engaged
in supporting Liberian repatriation and promised to share
local integration plans with RefCoord.

Visit to Tabou and Surrounding Villages

4. The U.S. delegation held discussions with refugees in
Tabou town (ref. B) and visited project sites in surrounding
villages with local implementing partners. Tabou is the last
large town in Cote d'Ivoire before arriving at the border
with Liberia, approximately 45 minutes away by dirt road.
RefCoord visited the villages of Yeouli, Georgestown, and
Gozon, all located along the Cavally River separating Cote
d'Ivoire from Liberia. All three villages seemed relatively
quiet, and RefCoord actually had difficulty finding many
Liberian refugees to talk to (Note: These villages are
populated by various ethnic groups/nationalities. End note.)
In Georgestown, the Refugee Committee Chairman said he was
unaware of the deadline for repatriation to Liberia, but,
curiously, he explained that he had just returned from
Liberia where he had spent the last several months receiving
free medical treatment in Harper. RefCoord could not even
find the Refugee Committee Chairman in Gozon, and was
eventually told he had left to San Pedro. Dr. Toure, UNHCR
Head of Field Office in Tabou, later told RefCoord he might
even be in Liberia, since his family had just returned last

5. Kakule Dieudonne, Head of Field Office for IRC, confirmed
to RefCoord that student enrollment figures dropped
significantly between the 2005/2006 school year, when IRC
enrolled 2,700 Liberian students in their alternative
education schools, to just 987 Liberian students for the
2006/2007 school year. Dieudonne said only 163 of those not
registered this year could be accounted for on UNHCR's
repatriation lists. In Harper, Liberia, UNHCR staff estimate
some 10,000 Liberians have returned without UNHCR assistance
from Cote d'Ivoire. So far they have deregistered 302
families (786 individuals), most of whom are from Maryland
County. Based on their observations, they believe
deregistration numbers remain low as many Liberian refugees
have either lost their refugee cards or continue to hold on

ABIDJAN 00000293 002 OF 003

to their cards in case a future resettlement program in Cote
d'Ivoire is launched. They also said that some Liberians use
the cards to facilitate travel when they return to Cote
d'Ivoire to conduct business, and that others have even sold
their cards to third country nationals (Burkinabe, Nigerians,
Ghanaians) who hope to use them to benefit from assistance
and/or resettlement programs in host countries.

Liberian Refugees in Guiglo

6. The PRM-USAID/FFP team also traveled to Duekoue and
Guiglo and visited several villages in the Zone of Confidence
(Fengolo, Ieurozon, Blodi, and Toa-Zeo) that had experienced
population displacements. UNHCR organized a meeting with
approximately 350-400 Liberian refugees in Nicla Camp and a
group of about 25 Liberian refugees in Guiglo town. RefCoord
communicated the same message to refugees as in Abidjan and
Tabou (ref. B). The Nicla refugees are still a cohesive
group, opening their meetings with prayers for resettlement,
but they were less rowdy than in previous meetings. Their
questions focused on the security situation in Cote d'Ivoire
and what would happen to Liberians who remain in Cote
d'Ivoire after the June 2007 deadline. They appear to have
largely accepted the end of group resettlement to the U.S.,
but many in Nicla still have pending P-3 cases. RefCoord
assured them that the U.S. will process all eligible P-3
cases, but that those refugees who choose to remain in Cote
d'Ivoire need to recognize that repatriation assistance is
ending in June 2007. In Guiglo town, one Refugee Committee
member angrily asked why UNHCR is not holding such
discussions with the larger refugee population in town,
particularly the issue of the closing of transit and
reception facilities in Liberia after June and what impact
this will have on potential returnees. Ironically, another
refugee complained that health care for refugees in Guiglo is
inadequate and that he had traveled all the way to Monrovia
on two occasions for free medical care - even producing his
medical card to prove his point.

The Village of "Zaa"

7. Azam had promised RefCoord and the Ambassador on several
occasions in 2006 that refugee assistance in the Nicla Camp
in Guiglo would end in December 2006 and that Nicla would be
transformed into an Ivoirian village (to be called "Zaaglo" -
the village of "Zaa"). However, Azam complained that the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs is delaying the process and that
they are waiting for the Minister that will then be
transferred to the military Prefect in Guiglo for official
announcement. Azam said with confidence that the Ministry
would deliver this announcement before the end of February
(which did not happen). WFP, IRC, and Caritas confirmed,
however, that they had agreed with UNHCR in December to
continue assistance in Nicla and Tabou until the end of June
2007. According to UNHCR Guiglo, the Ivoirian government
requested approximately $800,000 to complete the
transformation of Nicla into a village, a figure that UNHCR
could not pay. Azam produced a letter signed by the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs on March 8 that confirms the decision to
transform Nicla camp into a village has been submitted to an
inter-ministerial committee for further review and eventual

The Mie N'Gou Center

8. The PRM-USAID/FFP mission also visited the Mie N'Gou
Center in Yamoussoukro. According to UNHCR documents, the
Center holds 550 people and, along with the CATD in Guiglo,
is without "adequate support and infrastructure" where
"promiscuity and high risk behavior, malaria, and other
diseases" have caused "despair and frustration" among the
residents. A UNHCR official accompanying the mission said
they had just completed a census and had registered only 368
persons in the Center (Note: The Center was designed to hold
250 persons. End note.). Indeed, the Center was grossly
overcrowded in 2002 when some 9,000 IDPs fleeing the war
crammed its facilities. However, several NGOs, including
Save the Children/UK, used to provide assistance in the
Center and the World Food Program (WFP) carried out food
distributions until December 2005. An IRC official said
their estimate of repairs to the plumbing system in the
Center came to only about $2,000. The U.S. delegation

ABIDJAN 00000293 003 OF 003

learned that most families manage to pay the required fees
for their children to attend school and that there are no
reported cases of malnutrition in the Center. Three
gentlemen the delegation spoke to in fact either have jobs
outside the Center or are receiving a government pension.
The Nun running the center confided to RefCoord that she just
wants the IDPs to leave so she can return to her original
work providing physical therapy to handicapped persons in the


9. UNHCR has stepped up its refugee activities since the
start of the U.S. delegation's visit. Return numbers jumped
between February 27 and March 8 and Azam raised the issue of
local integration of Liberian refugees in Cote d'Ivoire after
June 2007 with the UN Country Team and local partners on
March 13. UNHCR staff have also worked out a solid
promotional plan they intend to implement as of late March to
inform Liberian refugees about their options for local
integration after the June deadline and have shared a copy of
that strategy with RefCoord. The issue of whether or not the
Nicla camp will soon close is a moot point at this stage as
the June 2007 repatriation deadline takes the spotlight. WFP
confirmed they will no longer provide food assistance to
Liberians on the basis of their refugee status after June
2007, but vulnerable groups remaining in Cote d'Ivoire will
be eligible for WFP country program assistance on the basis
of "vulnerability" criteria that applies equally to
Ivoirians. Despite some delays between November and
February, UNHCR appears on track to conduct a strong
promotion campaign as assisted repatriation comes to a close
and they move to local integration activities.

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