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Cablegate: Request for Guidance On New Refugee Processing

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBK #0266/01 0251033
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 251033Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1589
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 6542
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR 6910
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 4750
RUEHVN/AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE 4563

UNCLAS BANGKOK 000266

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PRM FOR DAS KELLY RYAN, PRM/ANE AND PRM/ADM
EAP/MLS FOR RAPSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL TH BM LA
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR GUIDANCE ON NEW REFUGEE PROCESSING
LEGISLATION


1. This is an action request. Please see paragraph 8.

2. Summary: Post has been informed that new legislation may
affect the need for material support waivers for some Burmese
and Lao-Hmong refugee populations, and could permit
formerly-excluded combatants to be considered for
resettlement as well. Post needs guidance soonest, both to
ensure that teams currently processing Burmese refugees
adjudicate cases correctly, and to prepare for impending
situations, including the conclusion of the RTG screening of
Lao-Hmong seeking refugee status in Thailand. End summary.

3. During the January visit of a congressional staffdel
involved in refugee issues, post received a copy of H.R.
2764, also referred to as the "Kyl Amendment." This
legislation, among other things, makes changes in the
provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act affecting
individuals from Laos, Burma and Vietnam who had been barred
from entry into the US as refugees due to their support for
groups that use force to oppose their governments.

4. Members of the staffdel said the legislation had been
drafted intentionally to provide relief not only for those
who had been excluded due to the provision of material
support to "terrorists," but also to combatants. The latter
is particularly significant, if true; we have used waiver
authority to allow us to resettle 4,400 of Burmese refugees
affected by the material support prohibition in the US
legislation. There is no waiver available for combatants,
however; over 800 people, primarily Burmese Karen, are on
hold as a result of this restriction, and many others
"self-selected" out of consideration for US resettlement due
to this restriction. UNHCR estimated that thousands of
additional applicants could qualify for resettlement from the
Burmese camps along the Thai border if the ban on such
combatants were lifted. Despite the staffdel's assertions
that the new legislation removes the impediment to resettling
combatants, however, the legislation does not appear to us to
be clear on this issue.

5. In addition to the Burmese Karen, these legislative
changes could affect post's response to the over 7000
Lao-Hmong seeking refugee status in Petchaboon. While we
have no new program to resettle Hmong, we have consistently
said that we could consider resettlement for cases referred
to us by UNHCR, and we have several such cases pending among
the group of UNHCR recognized refugees currently detained in
Nong Khai. Based on the previous legislative restrictions,
however, UNHCR and the RTG had understood that the US would
face serious obstacles to resettling Hmong who made a claim
to refugee status, as many if not most such genuine
applicants would also have engaged in some kind of armed
resistance to the Lao government, or provided material
support to those who did. It could therefore have a small
but significant impact if this restriction has changed.

6. The RTG is in the final stages of its screening process
for the Hmong in Petchaboon. It may begin the return of
those screened-out shortly. The RTG has made no pledges
about how it will handle those who appear to have a
well-founded fear of persecution, but we anticipate that a
number of those screened-in would have relatives in the US
and might best be resettled in the US. If we are now able to
do this, even for combatants, it is important that we know
this as soon as possible and consult with UNHCR and RTG about
possible next steps.

7. Members of the staffdel briefed these changes to RTG
interlocutors during meetings, and the Thai government has
been waiting for us to provide further information on how
these changes might affect refugee resettlement here. UNHCR
and MFA each raised this issue with visiting DAS Marciel this
week (septel). DHS has a new team of interviewers who have
begun working in Mae Sot this week; they are still proceeding
based on guidance received prior to the new legislation,
except that an informal agreement has been reached not to do
final adjudication for combatant cases until guidance has
been received. From January 23 through the end of the fiscal
year, DHS intends to process for resettlement over 16,000
refugees. A significant number of cases may have to be
revisited after interviewing is completed in order to apply
whatever new guidance we eventually receive; this will cause
delays in processing that may lead to lower numbers departing
Thailand this year. In addition, in early February, post
plans to announce the beginning of refugee processing in a
new camp in Mae Hong Son Province. Clarity will be needed

for the information campaign that should precede registration
there.

8. Action request: Post requests guidance as soon as possible
on the effect of the legislative changes. As explained
above, DHS screeners currently working in country appear to
us to lack the necessary guidance to apply the new law to the
cases they are currently interviewing, and our partners on
refugee issues in UNHCR and the RTG are awaiting information
about the further impact of these legal changes. We would
appreciate Department's assistance in working with other
agencies involved to ensure that we are carrying out our
refugee processing in accordance with the new law.
JOHN

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