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Cablegate: Unhcr Cambodia On Montagnards

VZCZCXRO7618
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #1270/01 2780858
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 050858Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9022
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 1631

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 001270

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR PRM AND EAP/MLS
BANGKOK FOR REFUGEE COORDINATOR
GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL CB
SUBJECT: UNHCR CAMBODIA ON MONTAGNARDS


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISSEMINATION.

1. (SBU) Summary. UNHCR'S Phnom Penh office reported that
direct arrivals of Montagnards to the UNHCR office in Phnom
Penh makes up 75 percent of new arrivals in 2007, compared to
40 percent of new arrivals in 2006. During the UNHCR office
reporting period starting May 1, the UNHCR has seen an
increase in refugee recognitions totaling 43 percent of
Montagnards who arrived prior to May 1 (28 cases out of 65
first-instance decisions). UNHCR notes that five of these
cases have been recognized because of publicized links with
Montagnard activists in other countries that make them more
vulnerable to persecution if they were to return to Vietnam.
Recently there have been only two applications for voluntary
repatriation. The UNHCR report says this is because of the
new U.S. policy which has led to final rejected cases
deciding as a group to refuse repatriation counseling. End
summary.

INCREASE IN DIRECT ARRIVALS TO PHNOM PENH
-----------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On October 1, the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Phnom Penh provided a
non-public, internal report to its partners in the
international community stating that in 2007 there have been
269 new Montagnard arrivals, 200 of whom were direct arrivals
to the UNHCR office in Phnom Penh. Direct arrivals of
Montagnards to the UNHCR office in Phnom Penh make up 75
percent of new arrivals in 2007, compared to 40 percent of
new arrivals in 2006. The number of direct arrivals to Phnom
Penh has doubled from 66 during the first four months of 2007
to 134 direct arrivals from May 1 through September. The
report links the increase in direct arrivals to possible
encouragement by Montagnards who are in the U.S, noting the
increase in direct arrivals coincided with the May 1 date of
implementation of the new U.S. policy on Montagnards. For
non-direct arrivals, the report states that in September the
UNHCR and the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) conducted
their fourth joint mission to Ratanakiri bringing 23 asylum
seekers to Phnom Penh.

RECENT INCREASE IN REFUGEE RECOGNITION
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) The report states that there has been a recent
increase in refugee recognitions of Montagnards who arrived
prior to May 1. (Note: Our Phnom Penh UNHCR office
interlocutors told Poloff that the UNHCR has not made status
determinations for any of the Montagnards who arrived after
the May 1 cutoff date. UNHCR does not expect to make final
determinations for post-May 1 arrivals until early 2008. End
note.) Of the 65 first-instance decisions, 28 were
recognitions (43 percent) and 37 were rejections. The UNHCR
Phnom Penh office report states that seven of the
first-instance recognitions were based on derivative status
and 21 cases were recognitions based on well-founded fear of
persecution over religion or political opinion. Five of the
cases were recognized because of demonstrated links with
Montagnard activists in other countries that may make them
more vulnerable to persecution if they were to return to
Vietnam. For these five cases, the matter of past
persecution was not as important to the UNHCR determination
as was the possible risk of future persecution, according to
the report.

DECREASE IN VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION
----------------------------------

4. (SBU) According to the report, there have been only two
recent applications for voluntary repatriation and previous
momentum for voluntary repatriations seems to have slowed.
The UNHCR report states this is due to the new U.S. policy
"which has led to the final rejected cases deciding as a
group to refuse all repatriation counseling." On September
4, UNHCR submitted to the RGC the names of 21 individuals who
have been turned down by both the UNHCR and U.S. Overseas
Processing Entity review, and who are subject to Cambodian
immigration laws. The RGC has not announced plans to
repatriate the 21 individuals but the UNHCR office said that,
in the past, the RGC gives only a few days advance notice.

CURRENT STATS ON MONTAGNARDS IN PHNOM PENH
------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The report states that there are currently 379
Montagnards in the Phnom Penh sites. Of these, 157 persons

PHNOM PENH 00001270 002 OF 002


(41 percent) have been rejected (70 persons on first instance
and 87 persons have exhausted their appeal with UNHCR), 78
(21 percent) have been recognized, and 144 (38 percent) are
pending refugee status determination. Of the 269 arrivals in
2007, 53 persons (20 percent) have been recognized and 66
persons (24 percent) have been rejected. The report states
that 150 persons (56 percent) are pending in the first
instance due to a backlog of cases and that an increased
number of arrivals has resulted in refugee status
determination interview delays of as long as two months. In
2007, 89 persons have departed for resettlement -- 85 to the
United States, three to Canada, and one to Finland.

UNHCR CONCERN OVER CREDIBILITY OF CLAIMS
-----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The report unclearly suggests that a possible
increase in contact between Montagnards in the sites and
Montagnards who are in the U.S., and between Montagnards who
have not yet had a refugee status determination interview and
those who have been interviewed already, has led to an
increase in the number of non-credible claims. The office
suggests that the information exchanged between the groups
has led to "copycat claims" and that individuals who have not
been interviewed yet want to know from others how they "can
avoid 'failing'". The report makes reference to the
possibility that Montagnard groups in the U.S. are "funding
and fueling" the movement of Montagnards into Cambodia. The
UNHCR office in Phnom Penh also has seen an increase in
involvement of U.S.-based Montagnards and Montagnard advocacy
groups trying to intervene in the UNHCR process, mainly
through letters about individual cases.

7. (SBU) COMMENT. The report implies the possibility that
Montagnards are trying to overcome the new U.S. policy that
Montagnards who come to the UNHCR office after May 1 will
have their refugee claims screened only by UNHCR and will not
have the chance of special, secondary screening for U.S.
resettlement. We have assurances from the UNHCR office that
they continue to base their determinations on what they hear
from individuals during personal interviews. UNHCR continues
its visits to the Central Highlands of Vietnam to assess the
situation on the ground. Post will work closely with the
Embassy in Hanoi and the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City for
their assessment of whether UNHCR is getting appropriate
access and information there. Post will remind the UNHCR
office in Phnom Penh to ensure that they continue to sort out
legitimate refugee claims even among those applicants who
first present "copycat claims." Post suggests doing the same
thing in Geneva with the UNHCR. END COMMENT.
MUSSOMELI

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