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Cablegate: Djibouti Faces New Refugeee Influx Challenges

VZCZCXRO7167
PP RUEHDE RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDJ #0569/01 1830940
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 010940Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9362
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 000569

STATE FOR AF/E, PRM/AFR, S/CRS AND USAID
ADDIS ABABA FOR REFCOORD
NAIROBI FOR RDRAPCHO AND REFCOORD

GENEVA FOR KPERKINS
CJTF-HOA FOR POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF SMIG EAID SO ET DJ XA
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI FACES NEW REFUGEEE INFLUX CHALLENGES

REF: A) DJIBOUTI 550
B) DJIBOUTI 442
C) DJIBOUTI 439
D) DJIBOUTI 437
E) DJIBOUTI 425 (NOTAL)

1. SUMMARY: The Chargee and the Refugee Officer met
with representatives from the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the National
Office of Assistance to Refugees and Disaster Stricken
People (ONARS) to discuss the challenges Djibouti
faces associated with the recent Djibouti-Eritrea
border conflict as it continues to struggle in
addressing the South/Central Somali refugee influx.
END SUMMARY.

2. On June 15, Chargee and the Refugee Officer met
with Ann Encontre, Representative for the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and
Hassan Omar, Secretary General of Interior and the
Director of ONARS. ONARS is the National Office of
Assistance to Refugees and Disaster Stricken People,
which is the Government of Djibouti (GoDJ) office in
charge of refugee affairs. They discussed the
challenges Djibouti continues to face with the Somalia
refugee influx from South and Central Somalia, and the
recent Eritrea/Djibouti border conflictQs affect on
refugees.


MIGRANTS CAUGHT IN CROSS FIRE
-----------------------------

3. Migrants from Somalia reportedly continue to
transit through Djibouti in an effort to make their
way to Yemen via the northern territory of Djibouti.
Hassan Omar reported that, on June 10, during the
Djibouti-Eritrea clash, 72 terrified migrants from
South Somalia sought refuge near the Djiboutian army.
The migrants were reportedly hiding nearby waiting for
an opportunity to cross the sea to Yemen. The GoDJ
transferred the migrants to Obock in the care of
ObockQs Commissioner.

FEARED IMPACT OF THE BORDER DISPUTE ON REFUGEE INFLUX
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. Hassan Omar and Representative Encontre both
stated that the Government of Eritrea ordered UNHCR to
leave the country by the end of 2008. However, a USG
source has confirmed that UNHCR will remain in
Eritrea. Nevertheless, if UNHCR departs Eritrea, both
representatives fear the possibility of an estimated
5,000 to 8,000 South Somali refugees may begin a
massive movement towards Djibouti, seeking refugee.
Hassan Omar reported that the GoDJ has failed to begin
planning for this possibility of new refugees from
Eritrea's refugee camp.

5. Another feared possibility of a new influx comes
from the Afar people, who live along the shore of
southeastern Eritrea. People from this tribe also
live in northeastern Djibouti. Even though they live
in separate countries, they share the same Sultan, who
lives on the Djiboutian side of the border. The Afar
population living on the Eritrean side of the border
traditionally preferred to purchase basic commodities
in Djiboutian villages, due to the distance of larger
Eritrean cities and villages. If fighting between
Djibouti and Eritrea resumes, Hassan Omar expects this
population to also seek refuge in Djibouti.

6. The GoDJ reportedly evacuated 352 people from the
area around Moulhoule, a small town in Djibouti near
the border dispute. These internally displaced
persons (IDP) have received temporary shelter in the
town of Khor-Angar, 230 km northeast from
Djiboutiville. ONARS and UNHCR are working together
to provide limited assistance to this displaced
population. The GoDJ, taken by surprise, had not made
any plans for an internal population movement, and
ONARS fears more people from the region may become
IDPs if the fighting resumes.


DJIBOUTI 00000569 002 OF 002


SOMALIA'S INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS
--------------------------------------

7. Hassan Omar also reported on a newly encountered
situation ONARS faces where South/Central Somali
refugees, who have been in Somaliland for the past two
years or less, have begun seeking refuge in Djibouti.
This new influx of refugees has claimed that UNHCR in
Hargeisa refused to recognize their refugee status
(COMMENT: UNHCR in Hargeisa can only identify these
individuals as IDPs because Somaliland is
internationally recognized as part of Somalia. END
COMMENT). Hassan Omar believes many of these people
come to Djibouti with the hope of being resettled to a
western country. Upon hearing this, Encontre stated
that UNHCR Djibouti does not give priority for
resettlement to Somalis.

REFUGEE RECEPTION AT THE BORDER DISCONTINUED
--------------------------------------------

8. Currently, there is an estimated 2,500 registered
new arrivals from South Somalia. (COMMENT: An
estimated 8,500 refugees reside at the Ali Addeh camp.
END COMMENT). An estimated 6,000 unregistered
migrants roam Djiboutiville waiting for assistance
from the GoDJ. Since UNCHR has yet to establish a
presence to register incoming refugees at the Loyada
border, ONARS discontinued its daily refugee pick-ups
at the border. Nevertheless, reception, screening,
and registration of refugees continues at ONARSQ
office in Djiboutiville, a venue not originally
designed to receive or hold the large numbers of
people it currently serves.

9. Representative Encontre stated that even though
the Ministry of Interior provided permission to
construct the reception in the no mans land between
Djibouti and Somaliland, the Ministry of Defense
objected to the construction. When she returns from a
regional meeting in Nairobi next week, EnContre plans
to seek an explanation of the rejection from the
Ministry of Defense.

UNHCR'S SUPPLIES REDISTRIBUTED TO DISATER STRICKEN
COUNTRIES
--------------------------------------------- ---------
------

10. EnContre reported that UNHCR Djibouti received a
portion of its long awaited supplies (non-food items,
vehicles, etc.) ordered under last yearQs contingency
plan, which had been set up to face the refugee influx
from Southern Somalia and a possible war between
Ethiopia and Eritrea. The goods intended for the
latter arrived in Dubai, but were redistributed to
assist Myanmar and China with their recent disasters.
UNHCR must now wait for an additional 8-10 months
before the supplies are available again. Encontre
thanked the U.S. Government for the USD 100,000
contribution that has helped finance the supplies.

11. COMMENT: The volatile situation in the Horn of
Africa, further confirmed by this latest conflict
between Eritrea and Djibouti, has started to affect
Djibouti. If threats continue to materialize, more
serious impacts on DjiboutiQs refugee handling are to
be expected. Post closely monitors UNHCR and ONARS
preparedness and responses to address the issues, both
present and future. END COMMENT

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