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Cablegate: Morocco Celebrates World Refugee Day: An Overview

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHCL #0146/01 1971134
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151134Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL CASABLANCA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8122
INFO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DOJ WASHDC
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 8371
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0896
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 2993
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 2115
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 2359
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0303
RUEHBP/AMEMBASSY BAMAKO 0283
RUEHNM/AMEMBASSY NIAMEY 0278
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0660
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS CASABLANCA 000146

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO FOR G/TIP, INL/TIP, DRL/IL, DRL/BA, NEA/ENA, NEA/RA, IWI,
PRM, AND G

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SMIG PREF PREL SOCI ELAB MO
SUBJECT: MOROCCO CELEBRATES WORLD REFUGEE DAY: AN OVERVIEW

Ref: RABAT 00319, CASABLANCA 00071, 07 CASABLANCA 00135

1. Summary: Although Morocco struggles with large populations of
migrants and refugees, organizations such as UNHCR and the
Friendship and Solidarity Organization (FSO) are moving towards
further solidarity between Moroccan nationals and those who have
adopted Morocco as their home. To this end, Morocco celebrated UN
World Refugee Day on June 20 with two events: the UNHCR Mission to
Morocco official ceremony in Rabat, and an FSO community event in
Casablanca. As UNHCR reported progress in cooperation within
government circles and local authorities, FSO members called for
equal economic opportunities and a more sympathetic social posture
of Moroccans toward migrants. End Summary.

------------------------------------
RABAT EVENT- UNHCR OFFICIAL CEREMONY
------------------------------------

2. UNHCR Rabat organized a ceremony including speeches from the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees (through pre-recorded video);
Johannes van der Klaauw, the UNHCR representative to Morocco;
Ambassador Jawad El Hamdi, the MFA Director of Consular and Social
Issues; and another UNHCR representative who read this year's UNSYG
World Refugee Day speech.

3. According to the UNHCR, at the end of 2007, the number of
worldwide displaced persons under UNHCR's care reached 25.1 million,
of which 11.4 million are refugees. The Middle East and North
Africa region hosted nearly 3 million refugees and people in
refugee-like situations. The total number of refugees currently
registered with UNHCR Rabat is 832, with the majority coming from
the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Iraq.
Van der Klaaw noted that 189 of these refugees are children age
seventeen and younger. UNHCR Morocco receives between 80-100 new
refugee petitions each month. The rate of acceptance to receive
formal refugee status is about 20%.

4. The GOM's goal to be "more equitable, fair, and efficient" is
compatible with their actions since the July 2007 "accord de siege"
granting diplomatic recognition of UNHCR Rabat. In addition to
increased funding, UNHCR reports fewer cases of official refugees
being deported. According to Anne Triboulet, UNHCR Rabat Protection
Officer, the GOM previously pledged 75,000 USD annually to the UNHCR
budget. Since last July, that number has increased to 500,000 USD
for 2008 and 522,000 USD for 2009. Diplomatic cooperation between
UNHCR and the GOM ministries has also markedly improved. Whereas
before the "accord de siege" UNHCR only had access to the MFA, now
officers can make contact with officials from any of the government
ministries. One of the most noticeable changes is the behavior of
Moroccan police towards refugees. The refugees can present
security-enhanced UNHCR cards if threatened with arrest; the police
now check with UNHCR before deporting anyone with the card and UNHCR
is unaware of any deportations of recognized refugees. Although the
GOM still does not officially recognize UNHCR refugee documentation,
the cards have more de facto value.

5. According to the MFA, since 2004, the GOM has dismantled more
than 1,800 trafficking networks, and has voluntarily returned more
than 8,000 migrants back to their homes. The GOM admits that it is
difficult to distinguish between migrants who come only for economic
benefits and those who truly need protection and asylum. Ambassador
El Himdi emphasized the need to put into place a "procedure that is
simple but effective" to correctly handle each migrant's situation.
To this end, the GOM has sent a research team to Western Europe and
to Mali to review their asylum procedures, with the ultimate goal of
establishing a Moroccan asylum office.

---------------------------------------------
A CASABLANCA COMMUNITY WITH A NEW PERSPECTIVE
---------------------------------------------

6. The Friendship and Solidarity Organization (L'Association Amiti
et solidarit/FSO) is a Casablanca NGO established in December 2006
with the goal of creating social support systems between refugees
and migrants and generating positive public opinion for these
displaced persons. The Moroccan FSO members provide assistance in
cases of human and legal rights violations, arbitrary arrests,
problems between landlords and renters, and government bureaucracy.
Moroccan public support is a relatively new concept. The FSO
consists mainly of migrants from Africa and the Middle East.

7. The FSO distributes packets with basic necessities and medicines
and provides access to lawyers, who volunteer their services. The
Moroccans in the organization pay the legal expenses out of their
own pocket, as well as medical and other living expenses (such as
food and clothing). According to the president and founder, Lyoussi
Souad, the FSO has assisted more than 200 local asylum-seekers and
refugees, and answers regular calls for help during both the day and
night.

8. The organization celebrated its second World Refugee Day event
with an art exposition and a brief ceremony in Casablanca.
Attendance consisted mostly of migrants with a few Moroccans.

9. The event included speeches from three migrants on their
experiences in Morocco. While thanking the GOM for its hospitality
and apologizing to the people of Morocco for any trouble they have
caused, they all expressed frustration with their current situation
and the need for "respect" as human beings, as well as access to
education and jobs. The migrants also cited the need for the people
of Morocco to recognize them as "refugees" in lieu of "illegal
immigrants" as a significant step towards living normal lives.

10. Comment: The FSO's deep commitment to migrants/refugees is
impressive. As the organization is only two and a half years old,
there seems to be no government assistance or funding outside of the
organization's members, but the event invitation sent to poloff
included a grant request, indicating current fundraising attempts.
Overall, the Casablanca event was quite positive, even though there
was a slight underlying sense of tension whenever the presenters
talked about not having enough "respect". The sub-Saharan migrants
and refugees in the audience only seemed to partially agree with the
more volatile comments; however, this stance is indicative of the
attitude many migrants currently hold toward UNHCR because of
frustration with their low economic, legal, and social status. End
Comment.

ORDONEZ

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