Cablegate: Unhcr Again Pushes for Resettlement of Iranian

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 Action Request: During a May 4
briefing, UNHCR urged resettlement countries to consider for
resettlement the 1,047 Iranian Kurds who fled Iraq's Al Tash
refugee camp in April 2003 and have remained camped on the
Iraqi-Jordanian border ever since. UNHCR presented specific
cases with family links to resettlement countries, the vast
majority with links to Sweden and just two families with
distant ties to the U.S. UNHCR argued that third-country
resettlement was the only option for this group and
particularly important for long-term asylum policies in
Jordan. However, UNHCR also acknowledged that resettlement
from the no-man's land camp could create a pull factor and
undermine local integration efforts underway in northern
Iraq. None of the resettlement countries present at the
briefing made any commitment to consider the refugees,
promising only to review the files and consult with capitals.
The Netherlands, Norway and Finland said they would be
unable to consider these refugees at this time. As
instructed ref b, we will share the two cases with family
ties to the U.S. with DHS Officer Todd Gardner during his May
11-16 circuit ride. While we continue to have concerns about
the broader regional implications of this resettlement
exercise, we also recognize that third country resettlement
is the only viable solution for this group. We request
Department's guidance on how to respond to UNHCR before May
15. End summary and action request.

2. (U) As a follow-on to a briefing of resettlement
countries in Geneva (ref a), UNHCR shared specific Iranian
Kurdish refugee cases with representatives of resettlement
countries on May 4. While UNHCR has prepared a group
referral for nearly the entire no-man's land caseload (1,047
Iranian Kurds), it has broken down the group according to
family ties to resettlement countries. The vast majority of
refugees has family ties to Sweden, with smaller numbers
linked to Norway, Denmark, Finland, Canada, Australia, the
U.K., the U.S. (two cases only, a total of 16 individuals)
and Ireland. An additional 16 cases do not have family links
in any resettlement countries. All of these resettlement
countries, except Denmark and Ireland, were present at the
briefing. UNHCR asked for feedback from resettlement
countries by May 15. UNHCR was represented by Jordan
Representative Sten Bronee and his senior protection and
resettlement officers, as well as Geneva-based Senior
Resettlement Consultant Phyllis Coven. UNHCR's Iraq mission
(currently based in UNHCR's Jordan Branch Office) did not
participate in the briefing.

3. (U) Bronee reviewed UNHCR's efforts to profile and
prepare the group referral, repeating information shared with
resettlement countries on April 16 in Geneva (ref a). The
group referral is limited to the 1,047 Iranian Kurdish
refugees who fled Iraq's Al Tash refugee camp to the
Jordanian border in April 2003 and have remained camped in
no-man's land ever since. Since UNHCR began the profiling
exercise in September 2003, all Iranian Kurds in no-man's
land have been photographed and interviewed. Bronee
emphasized that UNHCR is under increasing pressure from the
GOJ to find solutions for this caseload and noted that
UNHCR's ability to find solutions for this group will affect
long-term asylum prospects in Jordan. Without evidence that
the international community is willing to resettle
non-Palestinian refugees from Jordan, Bronee fears that the
GOJ will tighten its borders still further and end its
temporary protection policy for the estimated 300,000 Iraqis
resident in Jordan. (Comment: We find this last fear a bit
overblown. End comment.)

4. (U) UNHCR Senior Resettlement Consultant Phyllis Coven
elaborated on the modalities of this group referral. UNHCR
determined the group profile based on the following six
criteria common to all adult members of the group:

- Left Iran in 1979-80 as a result of the Iranian revolution
or Iran-Iraq war
- Fled to northern Iraq
- Registered as refugees in Iraq's Al Tash camp from 1987
- Arrived in no-man's land following the fall of Saddam
Hussein's regime in Iraq
- Registered in no-man's land on September 16, 2003; and
- Photographed on April 6, 2004 in the no-man's land camp.

Based on interviews with adult members of the group, UNHCR
has made a preliminary determination that Article 1F of the
Refugee Convention does not apply to this group. Separately,
Coven noted that between 25 and 35 Iranian Kurdish single
males currently resident in no-man's land do not meet the
group criteria because they left Al Tash camp for an extended
period between 1987 and 2003. UNHCR Senior Protection
Officer Jacqueline Parlevliet later confided to refcoord that
the agency is concerned that these single men had been
involved in paramilitary activities and therefore needed
further interviews before any 1F determinations could be

5. (U) Drawing on ref c points, refcoord noted U.S. concerns
that resettlement from the no-man's land camp could create a
pull factor for refugees from throughout Iraq and undermine
local integration efforts currently underway for the 1,000
Iranian Kurdish families who relocated from Al Tash camp to
northern Iraq during the last year. Bronee acknowledged that
resettlement activities on the border -- particularly while
unrest continues in southern and western Iraq -- could indeed
create a pull factor and that neither UNHCR nor coalition
forces would be able to respond appropriately to a new flow
of refugees toward Jordan. The GOJ, Bronee predicted, would
likely retain its current, de facto closed border policy for
refugee arrivals in the event of new refugee flows.
Parlevliet added that local integration in northern Iraq
could not be considered as a possible solution for the
no-man's land camp, as security conditions in Iraq prohibited
UNHCR from advocating return to Iraq at this time. Moreover,
recent reports from UNHCR's local implementing partner in
Sulaimaniyah indicated that the Kurdish Regional Government
(KRG) was now reviewing its previous pledge to allow the Al
Tash Kurds to remain in northern Iraq for at least fifteen
years. Without firm commitments from the KRG, she asked, how
could local integration in northern Iraq be considered as a
durable solution?

6. (U) None of the resettlement countries present at the
briefing made any commitment to consider the refugees,
promising only to review the files and consult with capitals.
Sweden (widely touted by UNHCR as having agreed to process
the cases) noted several times that its Immigration Board
would only compare the UNHCR lists to its Swedish family
reunification lists. The Netherlands, Norway and Finland
told UNHCR that they would be unable to consider these
refugees at this time. As instructed ref b, refcoord
informed UNHCR that will share the two cases with family ties
to the U.S. with DHS Officer Todd Gardner during his May
11-16 circuit ride, for informational purposes only.
Refcoord also accepted a list of the 16 cases without family
ties to any resettlement country, noting that we could not
make any commitments regarding those cases.

7. (SBU) Comment and Action Request: UNHCR still does not
have good answers for our concerns that a resettlement
exercise conducted from no-man's land could create a pull
factor for the 4,500 Iranian Kurdish refugees who remain in
Al Tash and undermine ongoing local integration efforts for
the 1,000 families who moved from Al Tash to northern Iraq
during the last year. The absence of any UNHCR/Iraq staff
from this briefing only underscored our impression that UNHCR
Headquarters is rushing ahead with this group resettlement
experiment without having fully considered the consequences
for Iranian Kurdish refugee populations throughout the
region. Nevertheless, it is clear that this particular group
of Iranian Kurdish refugees -- the 1,047 who fled Al Tash in
April 2003 and have remained in the no-man's land ever since
-- are very unlikely to voluntarily return to Iraq (either Al
Tash or the north) and do not have any options for local
integration in Jordan. Resettlement outside the region
therefore seems to be the only real solution for this group
and one that would reassure the GOJ that it will not be
expected to accept any new long-term refugee populations. We
request Department's guidance on how to respond to UNHCR.
Please send guidance to Embassies Amman and Cairo, as well as
US Mission Geneva.

8. (U) CPA Baghdad minimize considered.

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