Cablegate: Iom's Return and Reintegration of Lao Tip Victims


DE RUEHVN #0310/01 1070939
P 170939Z APR 07






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: IOM's Return and Reintegration of Lao TIP Victims

Ref: A) 06 VIENTIANE 1035

The contents of this telegram are SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED; please
handle accordingly.

1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraph nine.

2. (SBU) Summary: The International Office for Migration (IOM)
signed a long-awaited Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the
Government of Laos (GoL) on February 27. Based on the MOU, IOM
plans to be more active in capacity-building and the reintegration
of trafficking in persons (TIP) victims. IOM plans to open a small
project office in Laos in late April, thus allowing closer
monitoring of return and reintegration activities. Traditionally,
the U.S. State Department's Office of Population, Refugees, and
Migration (PRM) has been the primary source of funding for the
return of Lao TIP victims from Thailand to Laos. However,
PRM-provided funding for this activity is expected to run out in
June 2007. In order to continue the return of Lao TIP victims from
Thailand to Laos, IOM needs funding of USD 60,800 for the coming
twelve-month period. End Summary.

Long-Awaited MOU
3. (U) On February 27 the Government of Laos (GoL) signed a
Memorandum of Understanding with the International Office for
Migration (IOM). Specifically, the MOU was signed by IOM, the Lao
Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW), and the Lao Women's
Union (LWU). The MOU covers three core activities: capacity
building of technical staff; direct return and reintegration
assistance to victims of trafficking in persons (TIP); and research
and information development to include the development of a training
manual for Lao staff who work with returned trafficking victims.
The three-year $378,000 USD MOU will continue through 2009. The MOU
comes after five years of effort on the part of IOM to obtain MOU
approval. As part of the agreement, IOM plans to open a small
office in Vientiane on April 20 to provide closer oversight of
return and reintegration as well as capacity-building activities.

4. (U) Speaking at the MOU signing ceremony, IOM's regional
representative Ms. Irena Vojackova-Sollorano told the audience that
the MOU would put IOM in a better position to provide assistance to
Laos. She noted that Laos is a crossroads in the region and that
migrants flow from all directions. She also remarked that, in terms
of ethnicity, victims from Laos are now more diverse than before.
(Note: Since 2001 IOM and the GoL have worked together under a
regional return and reintegration project to return more than 800
trafficking victims from Thailand to Laos. In 2006 alone, 260 Lao
TIP victims were returned from Thailand to Laos with IOM assistance.
End Note.)

Seeking Funds for Return of Victims
5. (SBU) IOM - GoL efforts to return Lao trafficking victims from
Thailand to Laos have been a notable success. The return of
trafficking victims has primarily been funded by the U.S. State
Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).
PRM funding also supported the establishment of the MLSW's Transit
Center for the processing of returned TIP victims. Based on
existing funds, however, IOM's ability to continue supporting the
return of TIP victims from Thailand to Laos will cease in June 2007.
Hopeful of locating additional funding sources for its return and
reintegration activities, IOM representatives attended a donors
meeting in Bangkok on March 13. Unfortunately, the donors meeting
resulted in no additional funding leads.

6. (SBU) IOM expenses for returning TIP victims to their countries
of origin within the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) average USD
10,000 per month, approximately half of which is for return of Lao
TIP victims. In-country expenses for returned Lao TIP victims
include costs associated with food, family assessments, healthcare,
travel, translation/interpretation, and minor costs associated with
administration of the MLSW Transit Center. Since IOM's Regional
Return and Reintegration Program was instituted in 2000, the
percentage of returned TIP victims from Laos has increased from 24
percent of total returns throughout the GMS during the first few
years to more than 51 percent of total returns in the past three
years. These figures, and the continued increase in Lao TIP victims
requiring assistance to return to Laos, demonstrate the seriousness
of the problem that will result if additional funding is not secured
to continue the return of Lao TIP victims. According to IOM
representatives, in order for IOM to continue returning Lao TIP
victims to Laos, approximately USD 60,800 is required for a
twelve-month period of time. In order to continue returns of TIP
victims within the GMS as a whole, USD 122,500 would be required for
the coming year.

7. (SBU) IOM has submitted an Economic Support Funds (ESF) proposal
to Embassy Vientiane that would partially address the need for
ongoing support for returning Lao TIP victims from Thailand and the
related operations of the MLSW's Transit Center. The proposal also
includes activities to support the eventual establishment of a
transit center in Savannakhet Province. However, given the timing
required for review and potential funding of ESF proposals, any
funds associated with this proposal, if selected for funding, would
likely not be available until early to mid-2008. (Note: The
Embassy plans to submit IOM's ESF proposal as one of the leading
five TIP proposals from Laos. End Note.)

Capacity Building Funds
8. (U) While PRM has funded IOM's return activities in Laos for
several years, the Australian Government's Overseas Aid Program
(AUSAID) has provided most of IOM's funding for capacity building.
AUSAID, however, does not support direct assistance costs, such as
expenses associated with returns. Because many capacity building
activities were delayed due to the lack of an MOU, IOM still has
AUSAID funds available for some previously planned capacity building
activities and plans to dramatically increase its capacity building
efforts after establishment of an IOM office in Laos on April 20.

Action Request
9. (SBU) The Embassy requests the Department's consideration of
emergency continued funding of USD 60,800 for the continuation of
IOM activities to return Lao TIP victims from Thailand to Laos for
the July 2007 - July 2008 time period. With the number of Lao TIP
victims rescued and assisted by shelters in Thailand increasing, it
is vitally important that efforts to return Lao TIP victims to Laos
continue. IOM's assistance to the GoL for return of Lao TIP victims
from Thailand has been successful and has been a means by which to
begin building the capacity of GoL officials so that they can
eventually conduct such activities without significant assistance.
Given the recently signed MOU and the planned establishment of an
IOM branch office in Laos, the Embassy expects IOM's role to
increase - particularly in regard to capacity building,
reintegration, and monitoring efforts, all of which would be
undermined by a lack of funding for the return of TIP victims. The
local office also allows IOM a foot in the door for possible future
assistance to Lao-Hmong refugees, currently in Petchabun Camp in
Thailand, some of whom may be returned to Laos.


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