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Cablegate: Lebanon: Ambassador Meets with Unhcr

VZCZCXRO6335
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1311/01 2491504
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051504Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2956
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2863
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3089
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001311

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA
ALSO FOR PRM ACTING A/S WITTEN AND AMBASSADOR JIM FOLEY
IO ACTING A/S HOOK AND PDAS WARLICK
USUN FOR KHALILZAD/WOLFF/SCHEDLBAUER
NSC FOR ABRAMS/RAMCHAND/YERGER/MCDERMOTT
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PTER UNSC IQ LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH UNHCR
REPRESENTATIVES TO DISCUSS IRAQI REFUGEES

REF: BEIRUT 952

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Ambassador, PolOff, ConChief, ConOff, and the
Department of Homeland Security circuit-ride team leader met
with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Representative Stphane Jaquemet and UNHCR Senior Protection
Officers, Ayaki Ito and Anna Leer on September 4. The UNHCR
representatives discussed the current protection climate for
Iraqi refugees, attempts by the GOL to collect penalties and
fees from departing refugees, and future case referrals to
the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). End Summary.

REFUGEE PROTECTION CLIMATE
---------------------------

2. (SBU) Jaquemet said that conditions in Lebanon for Iraqi
refugees were improving but were still far from ideal. He
noted a recent change by the GOL towards a more genial
approach to Iraqi refugees, with fewer refugees arrested and
more released from detention. He attributed this change in
attitude, in part, to increased USG engagement on the issue.
He lauded USG efforts to resettle more Iraqis to the U.S. and
suggested that increased efforts to resettle Iraqis were
assuaging GOL fears that the number of refugees would
continue to grow and eventually destabilize the country.

3. (SBU) While Jaquemet was sanguine about the improving
protection climate at the ground level, he expressed concern
over a lack of clarity by GOL leaders on policy regarding
Iraqi refugees and said the GOL had not made important
decisions regarding the status of refugees going forward. He
specifically cited the GOL,s inability to reach a decision
on whether to continue a policy of granting to Iraqi
detainees released from detention two three-month temporary
visas, as opposed to deporting them. This policy, which is
scheduled to expire at the end of September, has temporarily
prevented many Iraqis illegally in Lebanon from being
deported.

FEES AND PENALTIES FOR REFUGEES
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) Jaquemet also discussed the increased attempts by
Surete Generale, the agency that administers immigration
controls, to collect fines and penalties from the increased
numbers of Iraqis resettling to the U.S. For example, in the
past only Iraqis without valid Iraqi G-series passports were
required to acquire a GOL-issued laissez-passer, at the cost
of $40, in order to depart Lebanon. According to UNHCR, the
GOL is now pushing for all Iraqi refugees, including those
who hold valid G-series passports, to have a GOL-issued
laissez-passer before departing Lebanon. The International
Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), PRM,s overseas
processing entity, currently pays for the laissez-passers for
resettling Iraqis.

5. (SBU) The UNHCR representatives also said that Surete
Generale is systematically imposing penalties on almost every
Iraqi who is leaving Lebanon for resettlement. Surete
Generale is imposing on average a $630 fine for Iraqis who
entered Lebanon illegally and a $200 fine for Iraqis who
overstayed on their visa. Typically the refugees accrue $500
in fines, penalties and other charges before they are allowed
to leave Lebanon for resettlement. Whereas in the past
Surete Generale would often waive these penalties, the GOL
has become much more stringent in its application of
penalties. UNHCR has helped to pay these penalties for
underprivileged refugees, but at the expense of diverting
resources that were allocated for education and other
critical refugee services.

REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT GOING FORWARD
----------------------------------

6. (SBU) In discussing the timing of upcoming DHS circuit

BEIRUT 00001311 002 OF 002


rides to Lebanon, the UNHCR officials were confident that
they would be able to refer 2,000 Iraqi refugees to the USRAP
during fiscal-year 2009. Jaquemet also noted that, contrary
to his own earlier concerns, UNHCR continues to interview
refugees that present compelling cases for resettlement.
Because of the relatively small number of Iraqi refugees in
Lebanon, Jaquemet had speculated that the number of refugees
that would meet the high standard for resettlement would
diminish after the first few DHS circuit rides. However,
based on UNHCR,s and the DHS team,s assessment, the number
of &compelling cases8 has not diminished.

COMMENT
--------

7. (SBU) Ambassador is scheduled to meet with Surete Generale
Director, Major General Wafiq Jezzini, soon. She will raise
the issues of extending the GOL,s policy of granting two
three-month visas for Iraqi refugees released from detention
and getting waivers for laissez-passers and penalties for
Iraqis seeking to resettle. End comment.

SISON

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