Cablegate: Afghanistan: Refugee, Internally Displaced, Deportee, And

DE RUEHBUL #2127/01 2260150
R 130150Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Afghanistan: Refugee, Internally Displaced, Deportee, and
Vulnerable Populations in Kabul City and Nationwide

Refs: (A) Kabul 4006; (B) Kabul 568

1. (SBU) Summary: Continued security concerns in rural Afghanistan,
notably in Helmand Province, have prompted an increase in internally
displaced persons (IDPs) seeking a safe haven in Kabul city. Press
reports indicate that families who had taken temporary shelter
around Lashkar Gah and Kandahar in the south are moving to Kabul
because of growing insecurity. In fact, this segment of
in-migration to Kabul is a small part of a larger influx of
individuals and families driven by a number of factors, including
economics, urbanization, and food scarcity. In addition, almost
29,000 of the 208,317 refugees returning to Afghanistan so far this
year have settled in Kabul Province. In many cases, USG programs
provide the only assistance to these generally poor and marginalized

2. (SBU) Historically, USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster
Assistance (USAID/OFDA) focuses on IDP issues both in Kabul and
across Afghanistan, and the State Department's Bureau of Population,
Refugees, and Migration (PRM) focuses on refugees in areas outside
of Kabul. As IDPs and refugees put pressure on Afghanistan's
(almost non-existent) infrastructure and absorption capacity, these
programs remain critical tools for humanitarian relief. The
information below sets forth the challenges and the programs
designed to address them.

Background: "I am a (Pick One) Refugee/IDP/Deportee/Vulnerable"

3. (SBU) Recognition of the different beneficiary populations is key
to understanding humanitarian issues in Afghanistan. The media
often confuses these groups but the distinctions are important, as
different international legal protections, assistance programs, and
funding resources often apply.

--Refugee: a person who left Afghanistan due to a well-founded fear
of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political
opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

-- IDP: a person who fled his/her home or place of residence due to
armed conflict, generalized violence, human-made, or natural
disasters, but who never crossed an international border.

-- Deportee: in the Afghan context, usually an undocumented economic
migrant (typically a young, single man) who was deported from Iran.
Pakistan also deports undocumented Afghans but on a much smaller

-- Vulnerable individual: any refugee, IDP, or deportee who is also
an unaccompanied woman or minor, or who is sick, elderly, disabled,
or needs immediate humanitarian assistance.

4. (U) In Afghanistan, the definitions and legal status of these
different categories of people frequently overlap and refugees
returning from Pakistan to the southern provinces may then become
IDPs as they flee the violence there. This past winter, male
deportees from Iran were deemed vulnerable due to the harsh weather
and their dire lack of resources. [Comment: While these men are
generally not considered vulnerable from a humanitarian perspective,
being set adrift without a job or family support makes them very
vulnerable from a security perspective.]

Recent IDP and Refugee Movement Into Kabul

5. (SBU) The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR)in Kabul reports assisting 685 new IDP families
recently displaced from Helmand and Logar provinces due to fighting.
However, migration to urban areas is not solely driven by
insecurity. UNHCR has also confirmed the arrival of a group of 50
predominantly semi-nomadic Pashtun/Baloch families in the beginning
of August. Further relocation of additional Pashtun/Baloch families
to Kabul is likely due to the emergence of community ties. In
addition, 14 percent of all refugees returning from Pakistan so far
this year are settling in their places of origin in Kabul province.

KABUL 00002127 002 OF 004

6. (SBU) Other major reasons for migration to urban areas include
increased economic prospects, family unification, the overall
worldwide trend towards growing urbanization, and increasing food
insecurity. Some returning refugees have also become adept at
appealing for government or international community assistance and
know that high visibility in an urban environment can attract more
aid than relative obscurity in their provinces of origin.

7. (SBU) In a larger context, the recent influx of IDPs that has
gained media attention only represents about 2.5 days worth of
in-migration into Kabul, which has been ongoing since early 2002.
The rapid growth of Kabul is leading to a very large concentration
of displaced persons with very few resources. This can lead in turn
to increased instability in the urban area, as well as challenges to
the implementation of parts of the Afghanistan National Development
Strategy (ANDS), such as the goal of expanding piped water to 50
percent of Kabul households by 2013.

One In Five Migrants Settle In Kabul

8. (U) Between 2001 and 2008, an estimated 5.6 million people have
returned to Afghanistan. The population of Kabul area rapidly
expanded during this period from approximately 1.5 million to an
estimated 4.5 million people due to an influx of returning refugees,
IDPs, economic migrants, and those fleeing conflict areas, as well
as net natural growth of the Kabul population. This tripling of
population has been accompanied by a four-fold increase in developed
urban land. Between 70 and 80 percent of Kabul's population live in
squalid conditions in unauthorized, informal areas. Residential
densities of two and sometimes three families per housing unit are
the norm. To date, few emergency-response agencies have addressed
the humanitarian needs generated by the confluence of returnee, IDP,
migrant, and resident vulnerable groups in Afghan urban areas.
[Comment: Humanitarian organizations have largely focused their
resources on rural areas and Afghanistan has seen minimal national
and international investment in urban development assistance.]

--------------------------------------------- ------
Internal Displacement Continues But Hard To Measure
--------------------------------------------- ------

9. (U) UNHCR reports that most of the estimated 1.2 million IDPs
displaced under the Taliban regime have returned home. As of early
2007, UNHCR estimated that 130,000 people in Afghanistan were
protracted IDPs, displaced due to insecurity, drought, landlessness,
and tribal conflict. An estimated 29,000 people were displaced
during 2007, primarily from Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, and Zabul
provinces in the south, and Herat and Badghis provinces in the west.
No precise tallies of the number of current IDPs exist but UNHCR
estimates there are approximately 250,000 IDPs in Afghanistan.

10. (U) Although displacements often occur following outbreaks of
fighting, UNHCR noted that most IDPs displaced by fighting return to
areas of origin once the situation stabilizes. Approximately 21
percent of all IDPs and refugee returnees to Afghanistan since 2002
have settled in the Kabul and Bagrami districts of Kabul Province.
Thus, more than one of every five migrants in Afghanistan has moved
to just two of the country's 398 provincial districts, both of which
are located within Kabul Municipality.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Urban Refugees Drive Up 2008 Repatriation Numbers
--------------------------------------------- ----

11. (SBU) Refugee returns to Afghanistan this year have crossed the
milestone threshold of 200,000, reaching 208,317 as of August 10.
Returns crested in May after the closure of Jalozai camp in
Pakistan, but between 8,000 and 10,000 individuals a week are still
returning. Repatriation will likely slow in September, with UNHCR
repatriation assistance ending October 31. Returns from camps are
lower than UNHCR's predictions but higher overall due to more
urban-based refugees returning than expected (Refs A and B).
Initial predictions anticipated returns from the planned closure of

KABUL 00002127 003 OF 004

Jungle Pir Alizai and Girdi Jungle camps (46,000 residents) but the
camps are likely to remain open. For logistical and security
reasons, the government of Pakistan has chosen not to close these
camps this year.

Refugee Returns Likely To Hit 250,000 in 2008

12. (SBU) While slightly over half of refugees returning from
Pakistan come from other camps in North Western Frontier Provinces,
the other half come from urban areas with rising food and rent
prices and high unemployment. UNHCR Kabul now predicts repatriation
to reach between 250,000 and 260,000 this year, barring an unlikely
late-season closure of Jungle Pir Alizai and Girdi Jungle that would
drive the numbers higher. These scenarios are within UNHCR's
worst-case contingency planning exercise (Ref B) but could severely
strain international community resources. The likelihood of a mass
return from Pakistan being completed by December 2009 is improbable
and not feasible, given over 2 million refugees in Pakistan hold
Proof of Registration cards and close to 400,000 more are
potentially eligible for refugee status. The Government of Pakistan
is reviewing its current three-year policy on returns and may be
amenable to modifications contingent upon adequate support from
UNHCR, UNDP, and the international community.

--------------------------------------------- ---
U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Channeled Through International and
Non-Governmental Organizations
--------------------------------------------- ---

13. (U) The USG supports returning refugees and IDPs in Afghanistan
through contributions to international organizations such as UNHCR,
which is mandated to provide refugee and, in some cases, IDP
protection and assistance, and the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC). The International Organization for Migration
(IOM) provides humanitarian assistance to vulnerable migrants,
including refugees and IDPs. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
such as CARE International and the International Rescue Committee
(IRC), as well as smaller, more local NGOs, also implement refugee
reintegration projects and emergency assistance activities for
displaced families and communities.

--------------------------------------------- ---
USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA)
Assistance Programs
--------------------------------------------- ---

14. (U) In FY 2008, USAID/OFDA is currently supporting two
assistance programs specifically targeting IDPs and vulnerable
persons in Afghanistan, valued at nearly $14 million. USAID/OFDA
has provided more than $1 million through IOM to procure and
distribute emergency relief supplies to address the needs of Afghans
affected by the severe 2007/2008 winter. To address emergency needs
of extremely vulnerable individuals in Kabul Municipality,
USAID/OFDA is supporting the second phase of the Kabul Area Shelter
and Settlements program (KASS-2), valued at $12.9 million.
Implemented by three NGOs (CARE, CHF, and ACTED), the program will
provide shelter assistance to more than 60,000 returnees, IDPs, and
other vulnerable Kabul residents. The KASS-2 program will also
address associated water, sanitation, hygiene, and livelihoods needs
for nearly 100,000 other residents.

15. (U) Since 2001, USAID/OFDA has provided more than $183.8 million
in humanitarian assistance programs addressing needs of returning
populations, IDPs, and other vulnerable or drought-affected rural
populations. Activities have included the provision of emergency
relief supplies; support for food and agricultural needs;
improvements in shelter and water, sanitation, and hygiene
infrastructure; improved coordination and information-sharing among
humanitarian agencies; and the establishment of livelihoods
opportunities and income generation projects. USAID/OFDA assistance
to Afghanistan is in addition to the Mission's emergency food aid
efforts and other agricultural programs that also include
vulnerable populations.

--------------------------------------------- --------

KABUL 00002127 004 OF 004

State Department Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration
(PRM) Assistance Programs
--------------------------------------------- --------

16. (SBU) Since 2002, PRM has spent approximately $488 million
helping over five million returning Afghan refugees reintegrate into
their homeland. PRM funds approximately 25 percent of UNHCR's
Afghanistan program, which covers support in Afghanistan, Pakistan,
and Iran. To date in FY 2008, PRM has contributed $20.3 million to
UNHCR for its Afghan programs and $22 million to the ICRC for the
South Asia region, a portion of which would go to its Afghan
program. PRM has also programmed $10.4 million for NGO projects to
provide reintegration support within Afghanistan and basic services
to refugees and host communities in Pakistan. Additional support is
planned for UNHCR and a number of NGOs before the end of FY 2008.

17. (SBU) PRM-funded projects focus on shelter, water and
sanitation, primary and community education, basic and maternal
health, and livelihoods programs. One new initiative is the Afghan
government's Land Allocation Scheme (LAS), where land is set aside
for returning refugees, and donors fund shelter and community
service projects to turn these areas into viable communities. While
50 percent of PRM's NGO project beneficiaries must be refugees, all
activities are designed on community-based reintegration models so
that project benefits flow to the rest of the community, including
IDPs, vulnerable individuals, and families who never left their
homes and are now hosting newly returned refugees and IDPs.

18. (SBU) The historically fluid migration patterns within
Afghanistan and to its neighboring countries, aggravated by 30 years
of war and economic ruin, continue to present numerous humanitarian
challenges. As Afghanistan's ability to absorb new returnees and
IDPs dwindles, USG programs are some of the positive forces for
change in Kabul city and rural areas in both Afghanistan and

19. (U) This cable has been cleared by Embassy Islamabad.


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