Cablegate: Jalozai Refugees Returning . . . For Now
OO RUEHBW RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1028/01 1160513
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 250513Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3698
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ 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 SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001028
DEPT FOR SCA/FO, 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: PHUM PREF PGOV PREL PK AF
SUBJECT: Jalozai Refugees Returning . . . For Now
Ref: Islamabad 1602
1. (SBU) Summary. 1,135 families (6,474 individuals) have returned
to Afghanistan from the Jalozai refugee camp in Pakistan since March
1, 2008. Due to adverse conditions in Afghanistan, some returnees
may try to go back to Pakistan very soon.
2. (U) Almost two-thirds of Jalozai residents went to Nangarhar
(672 families, 3,865 individuals); one-third to Kabul (388 families,
2,220 individuals); and a small amount to Gardez, Khost (75
families, 389 individuals). The focus on Nangarhar mirrors total
returns from Pakistan so far this year: of the 4,904 families
(29,431 individuals) who returned, 2,774 families (16,989
individuals) went to Nangarhar. The United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expects the heavy Nangarhar
returns to continue since many Jalozai families were originally from
Nangarhar and others may wish to stay close to Pakistan in case
their menfolk return to Pakistan for work. This is a departure from
the 2002-2007 trend, when the majority of returnees went to Kabul.
3. (SBU) Post Refugee Coordinator and Specialist met Jalozai
returnees on April 22 at the Kabul Encashment Center, where refugees
receive reintegration assistance funds and other services. Former
camp residents understood that they had remained in the camp after
the (multiple) camp closure deadlines passed but said elders had
been trying to negotiate an extension (REFTEL). They described no
violence against or by refugees, but registered with us their
resentment over the camp's closure. UNHCR Kabul grumbled informally
that Pakistan's actions amounted to forced repatriation but they are
not protesting the closure since it was agreed upon last year in the
Afghan/Pak/UNHCR Tripartite Agreement and with camp elders.
No Money, Nowhere To Go, Nothing To Do
4. (U) Options for newly returned refugees are severely limited.
Most, if not all, have no skills and are landless, very poor, and
have more young children and larger families than past returnees.
For the moment, most will stay with relatives. Most are returning
to a country that they have not seen for 20 years, if ever.
Returnees we spoke to in Kabul were mostly from Parwan, Kunduz, and
other places in the central and northern provinces. Some would try
to set up small retail shops similar to those they had in Jalozai
and, if they failed, would only then return to their province of
origin. Many refugees told us they lost all their business capital
in Pakistan when the authorities refused to give them time to
retrieve goods before bulldozing their shops.
That Was Quick: Refugees Already Recycling
Back To Pakistan
5. (U) The media reported on April 24 that five to ten recently
repatriated families a day are already returning to Pakistan from
Kandahar and Zabul due to Afghanistan's rising food prices and lack
of employment. (Post is trying to confirm.) When these families
officially repatriated, however, their Pakistani Proof of
Registration (POR) cards were invalidated. The POR cards function
as de facto refugee identity cards and without them, these recycled
refugees are now illegal, undocumented migrants, subject to
deportation at any moment. Several men we met at the Encashment
Center had already repatriated to Afghanistan before but
subsequently returned to Pakistan in search of work.
Impact on Refugees of Rising Food Prices
6. (U) Refugees are returning at a particularly difficult moment.
Food prices have skyrocketed: the price of a 48 kilo bag of flour
is 3500 Afghanis ($70) but the average government employee earns
2500 Afghanis a month ($50). Riot police had to disburse 1,000
protesters in Nangarhar on April 22 when they attacked flour trucks
to protest the rising prices and Pakistan's flour export ban. The
latter impacted many returning refugees when Pakistani border
guards, citing the ban, seized their flour supplies even though
UNHCR had negotiated an export allowance of two bags per family.
The Afghan government announced on April 23 that it had allocated
$50 million to purchase additional food staples but when, how, and
to whom the food will be distributed remains to be seen.
KABUL 00001028 002 OF 002
Scene Calm At Kabul Encashment Center
7. (SBU) Refugees processed calmly through the Encashment Center,
usually the first stop for refugees returning to the Kabul area.
The families' rented Pakistani "jingle" trucks waited nearby,
crammed with lumber, scrap metal, beds, wheelbarrows, and anything
else that could be strapped on. Within 20-25 minutes, refugees went
through a mine awareness briefing, medical check-up, and school
registration. At the end, heads of household collected $100 per
family member, money meant to be a small business capital fund but
often spent on meeting immediate needs of food, shelter, and
transportation. UNHCR runs the six encashment centers in Nangarhar,
Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Gardez, and Mazar-e-Sharif. At the height
of the summer repatriation season, some centers disburse up to
$400,000 a day. While the journey from Pakistan is relatively
short, it can be perilous. Medical clinics at each enter treat
injuries incurred when the top-heavy trucks overturn on the steep
roads or when women fall trying to climb to their seats at the top
of the truck in a burqa.
8. (SBU) While Jalozai's 80,000 residents have the option of
relocating to other camps in Pakistan, UNHCR Kabul expects the
majority to repatriate, along with other returnees from Pakistan and
Iran. As Afghanistan's already minimal absorption capacity
continues to be strained, we expect to see more recycling as
refugees become frustrated with rising food prices and lack of
employment in Afghanistan.