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Cablegate: Senegal: Hesitant Refugees Return to Mauritania

VZCZCXRO1450
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0188 0501535
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191535Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0043
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAKAR 000188

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREF PREL PINS KDEM PHUM ECON SG
SUBJECT: SENEGAL: HESITANT REFUGEES RETURN TO MAURITANIA


1. (SBU) Summary: On January 29, a group of 101 Mauritanian
refugees returned home voluntarily under the auspices of the United
Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). These refugees have
been living in Senegal since being deported in 1989 by the
Government of Mauritania. While some refugee leaders have
criticized the repatriation as "precipitated," it seems that both
governments are looking for a definitive settlement of this
difficult issue. End summary.

Precipitated Return
-------------------

2. (SBU) The first group of Mauritanians to return came from the
Dagana and Thiabakh refugee camps in Senegal and they used town of
Rosso as their crossing point. However, Mamadou Wane, a member of
the Directorate of Mauritanian Refugees, has criticized the
repatriation operation as being precipitated and without guarantees
for those returning home. Yet, not all groups agree with this
assessment as Wane failed to obtain the support of the leading
Senegalese human rights NGO Raddho (African Rally for Human Rights)
whose leaders told Embassy that they prefer to watch the evolution
of the repatriation process before making any judgment. Moustapha
Toure, spokesperson of CARESMA (Coordination of Associations of
Mauritanian Refugees in Senegal and Mali) alleged that Wane is a
member of the FLAM (African Mauritanian Liberation Front) who tried
unsuccessfully to get the refugees to boycott the repatriation
program.

3. (SBU) In a February 8 meeting with Poloff, the UNHCR
representative in Senegal expressed optimism, indicating nine
hundred people are already in line for the next repatriation and
that fifteen thousand have agreed to participate in the program.
She regrets however, that the process is slow due to the Mauritanian
authorities' insistence on organizing the returns based on the
region of origin of the returnees. She indicated that the
Mauritanian authorities have identified Braknar as the next area to
be settled by returnees and an evaluation meeting in Mauritania on
February 19 will be a "lessons learned" from the first repatriation.
She hopes that the repatriation will be concluded this year so that
a reintegration program can begin.

Comment
-------

4. (SBU) A Senegalese journalist based in the River Valley area told
Embassy "many refugees are hesitant, and generally worried about
what the economic future holds for them in Mauritania." This may
prevent a massive return in the early stages of the process.
However, Senegalese authorities are accompanying the process with
diplomatic support and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has
already indicated that those who do not wish to return to Mauritania
would be granted Senegalese nationality.
SMITH

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