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Cablegate: Damascus Refugee Sitrep 2

VZCZCXYZ0016
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0278 1151557
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 241557Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4880
INFO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 7308
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0852
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4918
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3626
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0406
RUEHGVA/USMISSION GENEVA 0619

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000278

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR PRM F/O, NEA/ELA, NEA/I

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PREL SY IZ
SUBJECT: DAMASCUS REFUGEE SITREP 2

REF: A. 17 APRIL STATE 40480
B. DAMASCUS O/I 21 APRIL

1. (SBU) This is the second in a series of Embassy
Damascus,s updates on Iraqi refugee processing in Syria.

2. (SBU) FACILITIES IMPROVEMENT: Post thanks PRM and
DHS/USCIS for authorizing funds to improve the interviewing
rooms (ref A). Post's Facilities Manager is coordinating
with the contractor and tentatively planning to conduct the
work after hours next week. GSO is working with the DHS Team
Chief to purchase rugs that should improve acoustics.

3. (SBU) SCHEDULE CHANGE: Post is following the
implementation of the change in the DHS work week, to begin
on Monday, May 5 (ref A). This will give the DHS team a
three-day weekend as the preceding work week will conclude on
Thursday, May 1. UNHCR and IOM said that the extra long
weekend will not reduce the total number of cases this
circuit ride will complete. UNHCR was very pleased to hear
the change was finalized.

4. (SBU) INTERVIEWS: DHS is currently interviewing 16 cases
a day. This number will increase to 20 interviews a day on
21 May when the next team arrives. The next team is
scheduled to have seven members. IOM said that they have
processed over 3000 cases in FY 2008 and are on target to
meet the goal of 4000 for Syria.

5. (SBU) CIRCUIT RIDER VISAS: Charge lobbied the MFA this
week to issue the two pending visas for DHS circuit riders.
The MFA was non-committal but implied the applications were
still being processed. Additionally, two of the current DHS
team members have asked Post to facilitate visa extensions
in-country. This would bump up capacity for a few days,
although immigration can deny extension requests.

6. (SBU) IOM-DHS CHIEFS MEET: On April 23, the DHS team
leader paid a courtesy call on the IOM Damascus Chief;
Conoff attended. IOM said processing of medicals with the
panel physicians was proceeding smoothly and IOM Damascus was
using the WRAPS supplemental program from IOM Cairo to track
the medicals. IOM Chief also noted that the IOM staff had
become more proficient in using WRAPS. IOM also commented
that it would like to send more staff for management and
additional WRAPS training before the case load increases at
the end of May. The meeting went well and the chiefs plan to
meet again next week. If IOM Amman and/or Cairo can support,
Post will engage IOM Damascus on specifics.

7. IRAQI REPATRIATION PUSH: Contacts at the Iraqi Embassy
told us they plan to contact IOM to manage their repatriation
operation (ref B). However, IOM Damascus chief told Conoff
that they have not been approached by the Iraqi Embassy. On a
seperate but related note, Nadia Jabour, UNHCR Senior
Resettlement Officer Damascus, told Post that in meetings
last month between Victor Cochetel, UNHCR Director of
Resettlement, and the SARG, the SARG repeated assurances that
they would not forcibly repatriate any Iraqi refugees.

8. (SBU) VISITORS: IOM Regional Representative Shahidul Haque
will be in Damascus 28 April ) May 1 and will meet with the
Charge as well as representatives at UNHCR.
CORBIN

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