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Cablegate: Iran: Another Wave of Deportations?

VZCZCXRO1583
OO RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #1817/01 2011230
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 191230Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4745
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 001817

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO DAS CAMP, 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: PGOV PREF PREL PHUM IR AF
SUBJECT: Iran: Another Wave of Deportations?

Ref: A - 08 Kabul 97
B - 07 Kabul 4006
C - 08 Kabul 1493

1. (SBU) Summary: Per a July 12 letter from the Afghan Ministry of
Refugees and Repatriation (MORR) office in Tehran, Iran will start
deporting 85,000 Afghans at the beginning of the Persian month of
Asad (July 22). Iran has already deported over 166,000 Afghans
since January 1, 2008, mostly young single men who are not
registered refugees but illegal economic migrants. The new
deportations, however, would include 50,000 refugees who hold
Amayash II cards (Iranian refugee identity cards) but failed to
register for new Amayesh III cards. Thirty-five thousand "illegals"
would also be deported, which MORR officials believe includes
Amayesh III holders who remain in "No Go Areas" (NGAs) such as
Sistaan-Baluchistan. These rumors have swirled for weeks; the IROA
sent us a diplomatic note in late June alerting us to an impending
deportation, but with no details as to who would be deported or
when. MORR and UNHCR used this time to lobby against mass
deportations but Iran continues to hold this sword of Damocles over
Afghanistan's head. We expect an uptick in deportations but believe
Iran will stay below a threshold that would trigger international
protests.

Possible Political and Humanitarian Fallout
-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Deportations increased slightly from April through June,
although they are still lower than the same period last year, when
Iran deported almost 150,000 individuals (and 365,000 over the
entire year). Iran reportedly wanted to delay major deportations
until after the Paris Conference to avoid embarrassing the Iranian
delegation or provoking criticism at the conference. A mass
deportation might spark a political crisis in Afghanistan similar to
last year's parliamentary no-confidence vote against Foreign
Minister Spanta and the firing of MORR Minister Akbar. The
relatively new MORR Minister Sheer Mohammad Etebari, who has already
had run-ins with Parliament, would likely be fired. He may welcome
this outcome. He is physically and mentally exhausted and unable to
lead his ministry; one of his own key staffers is rumored to be
inciting MPs to introduce a no-confidence vote against him.
President Karzai is rumored to want him out.

3. (SBU) UNHCR Kabul says it has placed its office in Zaranj, Nimruz
province, (where most deportations occur) on standby and is checking
stocks of food and non-food items. A UN contingency plan exists to
provide assistance to vulnerable individuals but not to young,
single men, who make up the bulk of current deportees. Legally,
however, UNHCR believes it could charge refoulement (failure to
protect against forcible return to a territory where a refugee's
life or freedom would be threatened) of Amayesh II holders who
failed to reregister or Amayesh III holders living in NGAs. UNHCR
is also prepared to "register its concern" over deportations of any
vulnerable individuals, regardless of status.

To Be Or Not To Be A Refugee...
-----------------------------

4. (SBU) The Amayesh III registration process (Ref A) has been more
successful than expected but still resulted in some refugees
"defaulting" into undocumented status. The process started slowly
due to onerous on-line registration processes and complicated rules,
but the Afghan refugee community in Iran rallied and are expected to
register over 1.2 million people. (The registration also shows a
distinct increase in the number of children and more mixed marriages
between Afghans and Iranians.) Most registrations occurred in the
evening, when the computer-savvy younger generation registered
family, friends, and neighbors after work and school. The
registration process ended on May 9 and authorities are expected to
issue new cards in 30 to 90 days. The Iranian government now
considers those who did not register as undocumented illegal aliens,
subject to immediate deportation.

The Carrot Approach: Short-Term Work Permits
---------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Iran has also tried to tie the Amayash III process to
six-month work permits allowing men to remain in Iran legally but
requiring their families to return to Afghanistan. Iran's Ministry

KABUL 00001817 002 OF 002


of Labor, which recognizes the need for Afghan labor, supports work
permits but met opposition from Iran's Ministry of Interior -- which
considers refugees a crime and narcotics vector -- and its
subordinate Refugee Department (BAFIA). Refugees are interested:
UNHCR estimates that approximately 80,000 work permit applications
were submitted from among the one million+ Amayesh III registrees.
(Based on the last Amayesh data, there were roughly 260,000 Afghan
males of working age.) BAFIA continues to be ambiguous on whether
work permits will be offered, and the pros (short-term certainty of
status) and cons (forcing women and children back, need to support
two households, recurring visa fees) are still evolving.

Show Us The Money
-----------------

6. (SBU) BAFIA has balked at signing the latest Tri-Partite
Agreement until UNHCR and MORR agree to designate Land Allocation
Scheme (LAS) sites for Afghans returning from Iran. They also want
a share of the money they see going to Pakistan as part of the
$100/person cash grant Afghans receive upon repatriating from
Pakistan. We understand that the Afghan government, at Iran's
request, invited BAFIA Director General Ghaemi to Kabul to discuss
deportations and work permits but he has not yet responded. BAFIA
now seems to have suddenly dropped some of its demands but wants to
postpone further Tri-Partite talks until after the international
Refugee Conference in Kabul in November.

No Go Areas Policy May Finally Be Implemented
---------------------------------------------
7. (SBU) Iran's No Go Areas (NGA) policy, begun in October but
implemented unevenly in each province, may finally start kicking in
(Ref B). June 20th was the apparent deadline for relocation within
Iran, with a focus on clearing Sistaan-Baluchestan Province of all
Afghans. UNHCR appears reluctant to push back against Iran on the
NGA policy, which the Iranians justify on national security grounds.
While local authorities remain ambivalent, the central government
seems intent on more rigorous enforcement this time.

The Future of Afghan Refugees in Iran
-------------------------------------
8. (SBU) Any mass deportation of illegal undocumented Afghans would
likely be met by a muted response from UNHCR. Like PRM, their
mandate extends only to documented refugees, and strong public
criticism by UNHCR may only entrench those in Iran who use Afghan
refugees as scapegoats for domestic political purposes. But Iran
will likely begin deportations with completely undocumented migrants
and only turn to the more contentious Amayesh II and III holders
after the international community's attention has faded.

9. (SBU) UNHCR reports that Iranian authorities appear resigned to a
continued Afghan refugee presence in Iran but still want the
international community to do more to boost refugee return and
reintegration in Afghanistan. They hope to undertake a joint
assessment with UNHCR to review current reintegration projects that
could be reserved explicitly for refugees and deportees from Iran.
One possibility: the Land Allocation Site in Taki Naqi, outside of
Herat, where PRM has funded a major shelter, water, and livelihoods
project. UNHCR is loathe to accept such a deal, which it believes
could fuel wholesale deportation and dumping of refugees in still
undeveloped (and problematic) LAS sites.

10. (SBU) As refugees from Pakistan continue to strain Afghanistan's
absorption capacity in the east (Ref C), large-scale deportations
from Iran could contribute to a similar mushrooming of informal
camps and settlements in the west that would require emergency
assistance. UNHCR's quiet new strategy of achieving "predictability
of staying" in Iran may be the best hope at staving off the
political and economic instability that would follow a mass
deportation event.

WOOD

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