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Cablegate: Unhcr Highlights Plight of "Protracted" Refugees in Eastern

VZCZCXRO4167
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0204 0411340
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101340Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9936
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0021
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0003
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 0006

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000204

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, AF SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: UNHCR HIGHLIGHTS PLIGHT OF "PROTRACTED" REFUGEES IN EASTERN
SUDAN

1. (SBU) Summary: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) Assistant Secretary General for Protection Erika Feller told
the diplomatic community on February 7 that the purpose of her visit
to eastern Sudan was to highlight the problem of "protracted"
refugees. The Geneva-based Feller said that eastern Sudan has nearly
100,000 refugees, some of whom have been refugees for four decades
and have been forgotten by the international community. Feller
outlined plans to work with the Sudanese government refugee
coordinator to improve understanding of refugee needs and to improve
services for existing refugees while transitioning to an emphasis on
refugee self-sufficiency. End summary.

2. (SBU) UNHCR A/SYG for Protection Feller said that UNHCR plans to
shift from programs that encourage dependency to a focus on
long-term refugee self-sustainability. Feller said that UNHCR plans
"protracted refugee pilot programs" in Afghanistan, Bangladesh,
Tanzania, the Balkans, and eastern Sudan. She said the eastern
Sudan problem is probably the most complicated of any refugee
situation because it is long-term in nature and because the problem
continues to grow.

3. (SBU) Currently, eastern Sudan has an estimated 92,000 camp-based
Eritreans, 28,000 Eritreans not in need of international assistance,
and 1,000 Eritreans in urban settings, said Feller. She added that
in 2007 up to 11,000 Eritreans and nearly 1,000 Somalis fled to
Sudan and formally applied for asylum. The number of refugees
already living in Sudan continues to increase because the root cause
of the Eritrean refugee problem remains unchanged, said Feller. The
main causes that prompt Eritreans to flee are the ongoing conflict
with Ethiopia, forced military recruitment of Eritreans, and "human
rights abuses such as sexual violence against women."

4. (SBU) To address current and future needs, UNHCR will work with
the Government of Sudan's (GOS) Coordinator for Refugees (COR) to
improve the management of current services. Central to this effort
will be a UNHCR-COR joint assessment mission to the refugee camps
and population centers, an enhanced refugee registration program to
enable improved refugee profiling, and a more efficient asylum
process. With better information about refugee populations, UNHCR
and COR hope to improve feeding and nutrition programs to refugees.
In addition, UNHCR plans to enhance educational opportunities for
urban youth refugees and develop solutions to improve local
integration of refugees.

5. (SBU) However, UNHCR and COR foresee continued problems based on
the regional political environment. These include the possibility of
future large-scale refugee inflows due to conflict, and recruitment
for further conflict. Feller said UNHCR and the International Red
Cross and Red Crescent are planning for possible large scale refugee
inflows. However, she cautioned that the long-term response will be
limited by the lack for offers of resettlement and donor financial
systems that cannot transition from humanitarian disaster assistance
to development programs for the same refugee populations.

6. (SBU) Comment: The situation for Eritrean refugees inside Sudan
is always precarious. There are increasing reports of refoulements
and general round-ups of Eritreans in the country, despite the
government's assurances that it would not engage in such practices.
In the case of a future large scale influx of refugees in the east,
UNHCR would likely redeploy some of its staff currently based in
Darfur.

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