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Cablegate: Damascus Refugee Sitrep 4

VZCZCXYZ0024
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0380 1501513
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 291513Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5027
INFO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 7328
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0872
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4933
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3655
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0416
RUEHGVA/USMISSION GENEVA 0624

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000380

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL SY IZ
SUBJECT: DAMASCUS REFUGEE SITREP 4

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

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: UNHCR reports rising concern among the
resident Iraqi community about their ability to extend their
visas once Syrian schools let out in June but we have no
evidence SARG has changed its policy on allowing refugees to
stay in Syria. Post is taking steps to improve the medical
clearance process for refugees. The departing DHS Circuit
Riders processed 598 cases, recommending 504(1514
individuals) for ressetlement. A second team arrived on May
22 and expects to complete 580 - 600 case before departing
July 9, the day their Syrian visas expire. Post also hosted
a thank-you BBQ for some 150 staffers from various
organizations involved with Iraqi refugees. END SUMMARY

3. (SBU) IRAQI REFUGEE VISAS: UNHCR reported that many Iraqis
are concerned that they may be forced to return to Iraq once
the school year is complete. In October 2007 the SARG
imposed a visa regime allowing only certain Iraqis (those
with medical conditions, business, etc.) to enter. In the
past, refugees with children in school had to provide
justification, such as school enrollment papers, to renew
their visas. As the end of the school year approaches,
rumors have been spreading around Damascus that the SARG will
not renew these visas - as these Iraqi students are not
technically in school, Iraqis will not have justification for
a renewal. UNHCR Representative Lorens Jolles reported that
he spoke with the MFA and was assured that there "will not be
a forced deportation of Iraqi refugees." Additionally,
according to UNHCR, recent reports from refugees suggest that
the border guards are now determining length of stay based
upon the content of medical records, making it increasingly
difficult to obtain an entry visa on medical grounds. Iraqis
facing a risk of deportation are those who have been arrested
or detained, destroyed their documents, entered Syria
illegally, or committed any type of criminal act including
petty crimes.

4. (SBU) IOM/PANEL PHYSICIAN OUTREACH: Post initiated monthly
meetings with IOM and panel physicians to improve the medical
clearance process and maximize the number processed each
month. The meetings are a mechanism for IOM to share its
caseload projections with the physicians so more medical are
done in less time. Our first such meeting is scheduled for
June 1.

5. (SBU) CIRCUIT RIDE TRANSITION: The new DHS/USCIS circuit
ride team arrived Damascus on May 21-22. Five of the
incoming seven person team are Damascus Circuit Rider
veterans, including the team leader. This team has a full
time finger printer and will interview 20 or 21 cases a day
through July 9. The outgoing six-person team departed
Damascus on May 23.

6. (SBU) DHS OUTBRIEF: Marcela Moglia, the departing DHS
Circuit Ride team leader, reported that during her Circuit
Ride, her team interviewed 598 cases(1703 individuals) and
recommended 504 cases (1514 individuals) for rersettlement in
the U.S. Moglia thanked the IOM support team at UNHCR for its
"high quality, consistent support." Moglia also thanked IOM
for its flexibility with scheduling and its support during
the change of work schedule. Moglia was pleased with the
plexiglas improvements in the interview booths and thanked
everyone involved: UNHCR, IOM, Post's GSO and PRM.

7. (SBU) THANK YOU FOR REFUGEE ORGANIZATIONS: To thank
international and domestic assistance groups, the Charge
hosted approximately 150 people from UNHCR, IOM, DHS and
other refugee NGOs for a BBQ at the Ambassador's residence on
May 17. The event went well and was appreciated by all.
CORBIN

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