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Cablegate: Unhcr Reports Rising Number of Refugees in Djibouti

VZCZCXRO5298
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHDJ #1176/01 2701538
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 271536Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0820
INFO IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RHMFISS/DJIBOUTI LCC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 001176

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
STATE FOR PRM/AFR
ADDIS ABABA FOR REFCOORD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL SMIG KTIP DJ ET ER SO
SUBJECT: UNHCR REPORTS RISING NUMBER OF REFUGEES IN DJIBOUTI

REF: 09 DJIBOUTI 283; 07 DJIBOUTI 1004

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: UNHCR Country Representative Ann
Encontre and UNHCR Senior Protection Officer Periklis
Kortsaris met with Ambassador, DCM, and ConOff on
September 9 to discuss the current situation of refugees
in Djibouti. In addition to the more than 10,000
refugees now at Djibouti's sole refugee camp at Ali Adde,
more than 1,000 urban refugees have registered in the
capital -- 40 per cent of whom have registered since
August. The majority hail from Somalia, as the GODJ has
suspended registration of non-Somali refugees since early
August. Eritreans continue to be a group of special
concern: UNHCR has registered several hundred Eritrean
refugee cases, and continues to work on resettlement of
177 Eritrean military deserters. Encontre reported that
the last 33 of 52 Somali migrants rescued at sea by the
U.S. Navy in May had returned voluntarily to Somalia; the
remaining 19 are asylum-seekers in Djibouti. She also
reported several supply chain difficulties for UNHCR and
WFP. END SUMMARY.

---------------------------------------------
Gulf of Aden: Somalis Rescued at Sea Returned
---------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Encontre reported that the last of the 52 Somali
migrants (rescued by the U.S. Navy at sea on their way to
Yemen, and subsequently brought to Djibouti on May 31)
had now finally returned to Somalia. Some 19 were now
asylum-seekers in Djibouti (primarily women and children)
and the remaining 33 were returned to Bossaso, Somalia.
There are two suspected traffickers related to this case,
one of which was reportedly prosecuted; the other was
released.

-------------------------------------------
Supply Chain Difficulties for UNHCR and WFP
-------------------------------------------

3. (U) UNHCR informed Ambassador that WFP faced problems
with its food supply pipeline for refugees in the Horn of
Africa, and anticipated a "break" in this pipeline in
October, due to the "constant influx of refugees." UNHCR
was therefore supplementing WFP's budget, and had
appealed to the New York-based Central Emergency Fund for
$150,000 in additional assistance: $50,000 each for
health, water, and sanitation. Ambassador highlighted
that PRM had recently provided a $100,000 contribution to
WFP for refugees in Djibouti.

4. (U) Encontre appealed for assistance in identifying a
fuel truck to transport kerosene for cooking from the
Horizon Fuel Terminal at the Port of Djibouti to the
approximately 10,000 refugees at Djibouti's sole refugee
camp at Ali Addeh. Finding a fuel truck to make the
monthly delivery is the issue, not availability of funds.
Due to the poor condition of the road to the refugee
camp, the limited number of transporters in Djibouti were
reluctant to traverse it. Alternately, Encontre sought
assistance to improve the 22km road from Ali Sabieh to
Ali Adde, noting it had last been graded in 2005. (NOTE.
Encontre subsequently informed Ambassador on September 22
that UNHCR had decided to ship fuel in oil drums using a
GODJ refugee agency flatbed truck, thus eliminating the
need to contract a tanker truck. END NOTE.)

--------------------------------------------- --------
Rising Urban Refugee Population and Employment Issues
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (U) The number of urban refugees in Djibouti City was
rising, Encontre said. At present, over 1,000 refugees
had registered with the Government of Djibouti (GODJ),
423 of whom had registered in August alone. Those over
age 18 obtained identification cards. Kortsaris noted
that since early August, the GODJ had halted the
registration of non-Somali refugees--a concern to UNHCR,
as without registration, refugees had no access to
medical care or work permits. (NOTE. The NGO AMDA,
supported by the Government of Japan, provides medical
services in the capital only to refugees who are either
registered or referred to AMDA by the Ali Adde camp. END

DJIBOUTI 00001176 002 OF 002


NOTE.) Of particular concern were Eritreans, whom UNHCR
considered especially vulnerable in Djibouti. As for
Somali refugees, the GODJ continued to register them
twice a week at Loyada, the primary border crossing
between Djibouti City and Somaliland.

6. (U) The right to work in Djibouti continued to be a
problem for refugees. Expensive work permits and high
unemployment made it difficult to obtain work.
Consequently, refugees could only access the informal
labor market, Encontre said. She advocated vocational
training, especially for women refugees in the poorer
Balbala district of the capital. Encontre also noted the
need to establish a high school at Ali Adde camp in 2010,
to provide secondary education to an estimated 800-1,000
refugee children. Currently, camp children had access
only to a primary school at Ali Adde.

--------------------------------------
Eritrean Refugees Require Resettlement
--------------------------------------

7. (SBU) UNHCR officials said the number of Eritrean
refugees in Djibouti had increased since the June 2008
border skirmish to an estimated total of 200-300. More
than 100 Eritrean cases had been registered by UNHCR in
Djibouti City; another 100-200 Eritrean cases had been
registered in Ali Adde camp. (NOTE: As a case could
signify a family of 3-4 people, not individuals, the
total number of Eritrean refugees could be significantly
higher. END NOTE.) Jehovah's Witnesses, students, draft
evaders, and other Eritrean civilians comprised this
population. According to Kortsaris, "Eritrean agents"
operating in Djibouti made such refugees especially
vulnerable. Since April 2009, the Eritrean government
punished those who had attempted illegal exit from
Eritrea with torture. Even within Djibouti, Eritreans
faced discrimination; Encontre reported that at least one
Eritrean family had asked to be transferred from Djibouti
City to Ali Adde camp for their personal safety, citing
persecution and physical torture.

8. (SBU) UNHCR officials highlighted the need for a
"durable solution" to resettle Eritrean refugees, noting
that -- unlike for Somali cases -- Eritreans posed "no
major fraud concerns." Encontre noted that the Joint
Voluntary Agency (JVA) had already screened 64 of 177
Eritrean military deserters primarily being held at a
GODJ detention facility at Nagad. UNHCR believes there
may be more, but only has access to 177; UNHCR was also
aware of 19 Eritreans being held separately as POWs by
the GODJ. UNHCR had denied a request from the GODJ to
obtain transcripts of JVA interviews with the deserters,
but would provide a spreadsheet providing limited
information, Encontre said.

9. (SBU) A total of 110 of the 177 Eritrean military
deserters had submitted applications for resettlement in
the United States. Fifty had been previously detained in
Eritrea; one-third had been subject to multiple
detentions (e.g., in Sudan or Egypt, as well). According
to Encontre, such multiple detentions had led to at least
one refugee suffering muteness, due to trauma. UNHCR was
therefore working with the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC) to provide counseling and communications
with family members. Encontre highlighted the need to
confirm that JVA's second circuit ride would occur by the
end of the year.

10. (SBU) COMMENT. Although the total number of refugees
in Djibouti remains small by regional standards, the
relative increase is significant: Encontre anticipates
the total reaching 12,000 by the end of 2009 - nearly
double the 6,458 registered in April 2007 (ref B).
Continued instability in neighboring Ethiopia, Eritrea,
and Somalia will likely contribute to increased refugee
flows to Djibouti. Earlier this year, in April 2009,
UNHCR prepared contingency plans for up to 30,000
additional refugees, most of whom it anticipated coming
from Somalia. Post will continue to work with UNHCR
contacts to monitor the situation and host country
responses. END COMMENT.
SWAN

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