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Cablegate: Prm Admissions Officer Visits Cambodia Unhcr And

VZCZCXRO2296
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #1426/01 3251119
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211119Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 1635

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 001426

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS AND PRM
U.S. MISSION GENEVA FOR RMA
BANGKOK FOR REFCOORD
HO CHI MINH CITY FOR REFCOORD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL CB
SUBJECT: PRM ADMISSIONS OFFICER VISITS CAMBODIA UNHCR AND
IOM

REF: PHNOM PENH 1270

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISSEMINATION.

1. (SBU) Summary. On November 19, PRM Office of Admissions
Program Officer for Southeast Asia Margaret Burkhardt met
with the Phnom Penh UNHCR and IOM offices to discuss the
impact of the Montagnard action plan six months after its May
1 implementation date. UNHCR reported an increase in
Montagnard arrivals to Phnom Penh since the implementation
date, and a lack of staff to keep up processing of the recent
influx. UNHCR requested expeditious U.S. processing of the
last 130 Montagnard individuals who arrived prior to May 1.
During visits to Phnom Penh sites for Montagnards, it was
apparent that the Montagnards there had daily access to UNHCR
staff and implementing NGO partner staff. The UNHCR staff
appeared to have good communication with the Montagnards at
the sites and seemed responsive to requests. End summary.

INCREASE IN ARRIVALS
--------------------

2. (SBU) PRM Office of Admissions Program Officer for
Southeast Asia Margaret Burkhardt visited Phnom Penh on
November 19 to assess the Montagnard action plan six months
on. To date, none of the 221 individuals who arrived in
Cambodia after the May 1 cutoff date have been processed by
UNHCR due to a backlog of previous cases. However, UNHCR
Representative Thamrongsak Meechubot told Burkhardt that he
believed the new policy may have encouraged a recent uptick
in direct arrivals to Phnom Penh. He speculated that
Montagnards in the Central Highlands fear that the window to
access resettlement opportunities in the U.S. is closing,
prompting decisions to seek asylum now. Post described the
increase in arrivals in reftel. UNHCR provided updated
information to Burkhardt showing there have been 310 new
arrivals since January (compared to 277 over the entire year
of 2006) and 77 percent of those arrived directly to Phnom
Penh.

PLANNED DECREASE IN UNHCR STAFF
-------------------------------

3. (SBU) Meechubot stated that the UNHCR Phnom Penh office
is bracing for staff turnover of two positions and a staff
decrease of one protection officer position starting in
December. The staffing change is expected to compound the
current backlog in UNHCR processing of Montagnards.
Meechubot provided a chart of average processing times for
Montagnard cases showing: 8 days from arrival at the UNHCR to
the date of registration; 55 days from registration to the
date of first instance decision; and, 98 days from the first
decision to the date of an appeal decision. UNHCR processing
time has exceeded these averages in recent weeks because of
the increase in caseload. In particular, UNHCR has been
giving priority to first instance decisions, thereby
increasing the amount of time for appeal decisions.
According to UNHCR's November 19 report, there are 146
individuals (125 cases) currently pending first instance
decisions and 35 individuals (31 cases) pending appeal
decisions.

REQUEST FOR SPEEDY U.S. PROCESSING FOR PRE-MAY 1 ARRIVALS
--------------------------------------------- ------------

4. (SBU) UNHCR Phnom Penh has provided the names of 100
individuals who arrived prior to May 1 and who have been
screened out by UNHCR. UNHCR predicted it will provide
decisions on the final 30 names of individuals who arrived
prior to May 1 during the first week of December. UNHCR
requested an expeditious resolution of these last 130
individuals through a decrease in U.S. processing time.

VISIT TO PHNOM PENH SITES FOR MONTAGNARDS
-----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) UNHCR Phnom Penh staff escorted Burkhardt to two
out of three Phnom Penh sites for Montagnard asylum seekers.
At both sites, it was apparent that the Montagnards
temporarily residing there had daily access to UNHCR staff
and implementing NGO partner staff. The UNHCR staff appeared
to have good communication with the Montagnards and seemed
responsive to requests. The staff addressed many of the
Montagnards by name, and a few of the Montagnard individuals
approached the site staff with apparent ease during the

PHNOM PENH 00001426 002 OF 002


visit. There were bulletin boards standing in central areas
of both sites with schedules for the most recent resettlement
departures, medical exams, and food provision. The
Montagnards at the site appeared in good health and reported
no complaints during the visit. A UNHCR protection officer
told Burkhardt that each site had a box for comments and
letters, and that UNHCR staff had personally been handed
letters from individuals at the sites at various times in the
past.

6. (SBU) UNHCR staff at the Phnom Penh sites requested the
opportunity to sit in on the International Organization for
Migration (IOM) cultural orientations presented to
Montagnards accepted for resettlement in the U.S. Burkhardt
met with IOM Chief of Mission Iuliana Stefan and passed on
this request. Stefan was receptive to the idea and suggested
IOM may do a separate cultural orientation just for UNHCR
staff at the sites.

COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) It is unfortunate that the recent increase in
direct arrivals to UNHCR in Phnom Penh will coincide with the
imminent decrease in staff at the UNHCR Phnom Penh office.
UNHCR Representative Thamrongsak Meechubot stated that more
than half of the 2007 arrivals who have received refugee
status determinations (RSDs) have been rejected for refugee
status. If this trend continues, and if processing times
lengthen, many Montagnards will be lingering in the Phnom
Penh sites for ever-increasing periods only to eventually be
repatriated back to Vietnam. The good rapport between UNHCR
staff and Montagnards at the Phnom Penh sites was reassuring
and there was good information flow about the UNHCR refugee
status determination and repatriation processes.
MUSSOMELI

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