Cablegate: Ruweished Relief Efforts Flapping in the Wind

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary and comment: On April 5, refcoord and
DART-West monitored operations at the IOM/JRCS TCN transit
and UNHCR refugee camps in Ruweished. Rather than serving as
a brief stopping point on the way home, the IOM/JRCS transit
camp is struggling to care for an unexpected population of
Somalis and Sudanese who do not want to return home,
stateless Palestinians who have no place to go, as well as
smaller numbers of other nationalities which are logistically
difficult to repatriate. Camp management problems, including
in key water and sanitation sectors, should remain manageable
as long as the camp population remains small. The
still-empty UNHCR refugee camp is well organized and able to
accommodate an immediate influx of up to 5,000 refugees. End
summary and comment.

Transit Camp Turned Temporary Refuge

2. (U) IOM's expected deluge of tens of thousands of
Egyptian laborers, who would be bused to Aqaba and then
ferried to Egypt, has not materialized. Rather than serving
as intermediate rest stop for Egyptians, the Jordan Red
Crescent Society's TCN transit camp at Ruweished has
therefore emerged as a long-term home for roughly 100
Sudanese and Somali nationals who are unwilling to return
home, 40 undocumented Palestinians and a smaller number of
other nationalities that are proving to be logistically
difficult to repatriate. The typical stay at the TCN transit
camp has dragged out from the anticipated 24-48 hours to one
or two weeks -- or even longer, for those who do not want to
return home and are hoping to return to Iraq once conditions
improve. The Palestinians, most of whom are long-term
residents of Iraq, likely will remain at the camp until they
are able to return to Iraq although King Abdullah on April 7
allowed 13 Palestinians with direct family ties to Jordanian
citizens to enter Amman on a temporary basis (septel).

Jordan Red Crescent Struggling to Cope

3. (SBU) The Jordan Red Crescent Society (JRCS), formally
tasked by the GOJ to run the transit camp, has struggled with
basic camp management issues. Although JRCS lacked key
resources such as generators or food stocks, it told IOM it
did not need any financial or technical assistance to run the
camp. IOM has therefore provided financial support only for
80 JRCS volunteers who are serving as medical staff and
escorts. (JRCS currently seeks USD 2.5 million in assistance
from IFRC to cover camp management costs, a sum IFRC termed
"excessive.") Even after the crisis began and key management
gaps emerged, JRCS refused to seek outside help and failed
even to systematically identify needs. IOM and IFRC
officials have tried to offer technical expertise, but report
that JRCS leadership has resisted their suggestions. After
two weeks of tense negotiations, JRCS President Mohamad
Al-Hadid finally held a coordination meeting with the NGO
community on March 31, where JRCS, IOM and NGOs together
identified gaps and possible solutions.

4. (U) According to logistics specialists from UNHCR and
IFRC, the JRCS camp was poorly engineered in just about every
sense. JRCS volunteers erected family tents and rubb halls
improperly, leaving them literally flapping in the sandstorms
that have buffeted Ruweished for the last few weeks. JRCS
failed to provide food or electricity in the early days of
the crisis, leaving IOM to hire a caterer and purchase a
generator for the camp. JRCS also failed to create proper
warehousing and inventory systems and only established
separate warehousing for food and non-food items after UNHCR
implementing partner CARE offered to set up a rubb hall for
JRCS. More significantly, latrines and showers were
constructed in long rows, with inadequate piping, leaving the
system unable to be properly flushed. IOM health officials
report that there also are inadequate hand-washing facilities
near the latrines and no plans for personal hygiene training
in the camp. JRCS medical services -- including a
well-equipped six-bed clinic -- fortunately appear to be

5. (U) Water for the camp is provided by the GOJ's Ministry
of Water. JRCS trucks the water from the nearby municipality
of Ruweished and then stores it in three 20,000-liter tanks
throughout the camp. Although the GOJ's Ministry of Health
has determined that the stored water is potable, camp
residents complain that the water is brown and full of
particles and now refuse to drink it. IFRC experts later
told refcoord the tanks most likely were not flushed prior to
installation. JRCS is now bringing in a separate water
tanker from Ruweished once a day and distributing drinking
water directly from the tanker into collapsible jerry cans.
As one JRCS employee admitted, this distribution system is

6. (SBU) IOM and JRCS' NGO implementing partners also
complain that JRCS volunteers do not understand fundamental
principles of camp management. In the early days of the
crisis, JRCS officials allowed visitors to roam the camp
freely, including journalists who interviewed camp residents
and even broadcast from inside tents. JRCS later tightened
security so much that it refused to allow some IOM staff
access to the camp, impeding IOM's efforts to identify TCNs
for repatriation. IOM reports that these access issues have
now been resolved. Also in the early days of the crisis,
JRCS volunteers showed up at the camp in overwhelming numbers
(400 to the camp's then-150 residents), lounging in tents,
chatting on cell phones and jostling the TCNs out of the way
at mealtimes. IOM has subsequently convinced JRCS to reduce
the volunteer presence at the camp.

UNHCR Refugee Camp: Ready but Empty

7. (U) UNHCR's still-empty refugee camp is well organized
and ready to accommodate an immediate influx of up to 5,000
refugees. After an initial, enthusiastic wave of tent
construction by the Hashemite Charitable Organization (HCO)
and subsequent, destructive sandstorms, roughly 400 family
tents remain standing in the refugee camp. UNHCR
implementing partner CARE/Australia, charged with overall
camp management, has worked closely with GOJ authorities and
other NGO implementing partners to set up lighting and roads.
Japan Platform has provided a well-equipped clinic and three
medical staff remain on 24-hour call. Oxfam engineered a
gravity-fed water distribution system that supplies water
from a nearby GOJ well to tap stands throughout the camp.
(Water for the camp is treated by the USAID/OFDA-funded
reverse osmosis unit.) At the insistence of the HCO, Oxfam
also installed flush toilets in part of the camp to respond
to cultural sensitivities. A well-stocked UNHCR warehouse in
nearby Ruweished holds non-food items for 10,000 people.
UNHCR told refcoord April 7 that it intends to keep the camp
operational through at least May 15.


8. (SBU) Muddled though the JRCS' relief efforts may be, it
appears that the transit camp management problems --
including in the key water and sanitation sectors -- will
remain manageable as long as the camp population remains
small. And should Jordan suddenly experience a large influx
of TCNs, IOM has the ability to quickly move TCNs to either
Queen Alia Airport or Aqaba for immediate repatriation. We
therefore do not foresee any significant humanitarian
problems arising in Ruweished.

© Scoop Media

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