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Cablegate: Afghan Refugee Camp Closures in Pakistan: Scenarios And

VZCZCXYZ0525
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBUL #0568/01 0651017
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051017Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3134
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 000568

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO DAS CAMP, SCA/A, PRM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREF PREL PHUM AF
SUBJECT: Afghan Refugee Camp Closures in Pakistan: Scenarios and
Possible Impacts

1. (SBU) The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
is developing a contingency plan for Pakistan's refugee camp
closures and foresees three possible scenarios involving the return
of 130,000, 266,000 or 400,000 refugees, respectively. NGOs are
hesitant to commit resources until they know funding availability,
and donors are somewhat hamstrung by their funding cycles. All
scenarios present serious challenges to Afghanistan's security
situation and ability to absorb and successfully reintegrate
returnees. These numbers should be taken seriously and planned for,
but a recent expansion by Government of Pakistan (GOP) authorities
of relocation options available to those dislocated now includes
moving to any existing camp in Pakistan, a development that could
take the pressure off returnee scenarios.

Possible Return Scenarios
-------------------------

2. (SBU) UNHCR recently dispatched a senior officer from Geneva to
Pakistan and Afghanistan to meet with government officials, refugee
leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and donors. His
findings indicate three possible scenarios, with Scenario 1 the most
likely. The approximated numbers are derived from Pakistani Proof
of Registration records minus repatriation records from 2007.

Scenario 1: 130,000 Returns (Plus 60,000 Possible Extras) From
Camps In NWFP and Baluchistan
----------------------------------

3. (SBU) Scenario 1: 130,000 returnees from three camps: Jalozai -
84,000; Jungle Pir Alizai - 16,000; and Girdi Jungle - 30,000.
UNHCR also expects approximately 60,000 returns from residual Kacha
Gari (closed in 2007) and other urban caseloads but did not factor
these individuals into any scenario as they will return gradually,
if at all, rather than be forced out of camps. Jalozai residents
will likely return, in descending order, to the east, central,
north, and south, while residents of the two Baluchi camps would
likely return to Kandahar and Helmand provinces. The GOP was unable
to close these self-sustaining camps in 2007, and, although they are
still slated for closure, the GOP may be unwilling or unable to
confront residents a second time. The closure of Jalozai and the
two Baluchistan camps has been already agreed upon in the
Afghan/Pak/UNHCR Tripartite Agreement.

Scenario 2: 266,000 Returns From NWFP And Baluchistan
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (SBU) Scenario 2: 266,000 returnees: the 130,000 in Scenario 1;
plus possible closure of six NWFP camps in Kohat District
(population 65,000) and all seven camps in Hangu District (56,000).
In addition, UNHCR suspects the GOP may try to close the Khogiani
cluster near Peshawar in NWFP (3,100) and two camps in Baluchistan -
Mohammad Khel near Quetta (5,700) and Zarkarez near Loralai (5,600).
GOP officials recently indicated that camp residents can choose to
relocate (UNHCR will assist) to any existing camp in Pakistan, not
only in the NWFP camps in Dir and Chitral, but also to Myanwali camp
in the Punjab. Residents from Khohat and Hangu, if these camps are
closed, will likely return to Afghanistan's east, southeast, center,
and north, while the remaining groups will head primarily south,
with some movement to the north, east, and center.

Scenario 3: 400,000 is "Worst-Case"
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Although this option was not presented in a February 18
briefing for donors, it appeared three days later at an NGO/donor
briefing as the worst-case scenario. This scenario includes the
individuals from Scenarios 1 and 2 (266,000), plus an additional
135,000 from possible camp closures in other NWFP districts. The
breakdown would be Berari, Khaki, and Ichrian in Mansehra District
(24,400); Padhana and Panian in Haripur District (76,200); Barawal,
Chakdara, and Toor in Dir (24,800); Dabara in Tank (3,200); and
Kalatak in Chitral (1,500). Returnees from these camps are expected
to return to the east, north, center, and southeast.

The Poorest of the Poor
-----------------------

6. (SBU) Most refugees told UNHCR that lack of land is the primary
obstacle to return, closely followed by tribal feuds, lack of
infrastructure (health care, water, and education), lack of housing,
and security and accessibility. Returnees are also likely to be
very vulnerable. Most Afghan refugees in Pakistan live in urban or
peri-urban areas and depend on day labor to survive, so relocating
to a remote rural area would be difficult. This group is literally
the poorest of the poor, with a greater number of young children
than in past returnee populations.

Security and Economic Concerns
------------------------------

7. (SBU) UNHCR reports that Pakistani officials appeared surprised
by UNHCR's estimates that anywhere from 50-80% of recently
repatriated Afghans have since returned illegally to Pakistan for
employment. These officials acknowledged privately that keeping
registered Afghans in clearly designated camps is better than having
illegal immigrants dispersed throughout the country. UNHCR Kabul
has also heard that the GOP wants to clear all camps within a 14 km
radius of any sensitive installation, including water and electrical
plants. Theoretically, closing camps near sensitive installations
could mean an additional 250,000 individuals would repatriate but we
believe that Pakistan will not follow through on this idea. On the
economic front, many contacts believe that if most Afghans
repatriated precipitously, many sectors of Pakistan's economy would
suffer a very heavy blow, especially agriculture, construction,
carpet work, investment, and real estate.

Returns May Not Be As High As Predicted
---------------------------------------

8. (SBU) We believe the numbers cited in all scenarios would be
somewhat lower but understand UNHCR's need to plan for the
worst-case scenario. Approximately 30% of Jalozai residents have
already returned to Afghanistan after belated attempts last year to
close the camp, and attempts to close Pir Alizai and Girdi Jungle
camps could be as unsuccessful in 2008 as they were in 2007. Camp
residents may choose to relocate within Pakistan or simply disappear
into the underground economy, although rising food and fuel prices
make it more difficult to survive outside a camp environment.

UNCHR's Plan: Push Back but Consider Camps
------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) The next Afghan/Pak/UNHCR Tripartite Commission meeting
will take place at the end of March, where UNHCR expects the GOP to
identify additional camps for closure, which the Afghan government
and UNHCR will oppose. There was some concern that Pakistan would
resist naming specific camps until shortly before closure to prevent
residents from organizing protests and blocking closure, but recent
assurances by GOP authorities claim all new closures will be agreed

upon by the Tripartite. UNHCR will not assist in any closures or
repatriation efforts not discussed within the Tripartite context.
Afghan authorities will push for a gradual approach and stress that
a massive refugee influx could cause tension, violence, and economic
disruption.

10. (SBU) In a striking departure, UNHCR also said it might consider
"alternative infrastructure", i.e., temporary camps within
Afghanistan, which have been heretofore anathema to their mission
here. With landlessness a major problem, however, camps may have to
be an option.

NGOs and Donors Slow to Commit Resources
----------------------------------------

11. (SBU) NGOs were reluctant to commit resources to a contingency
plan until they were sure of funding sources. ECHO and Embassy PRM
and USAID/OFDA Officers (the only donors present at a recent
planning meeting) could only reiterate our 2008 funding priorities
and deadlines. NGOs noted USAID's involvement would be particularly
useful, with its more flexible and robust funding. ECHO said it
would reserve 1-1.5 million euros to react to a possible summer
surge of repatriation. PRM has no current ability to reserve funds
for mid-year distribution but it may be helpful to build geographic
flexibility into regional projects.

Afghan Capacity Not Up to the Challenge
---------------------------------------

12. (SBU) Notably absent in the discussions were the Afghan
government entities responsible for handling repatriation and
emergency response. These organizations proved themselves inept in
handling this winter's weather crisis and will no doubt lean heavily
on the international community for support. With additional forced
repatriation from Iran and likely spring floods following the heavy
snowfall this year, we expect a busy humanitarian season, with
continuing inadequate Afghan leadership on the issue.

13. (U) Embassy Islamabad cleared this cable.

WOOD

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