Cablegate: Mixed Migration Flows: Iom/Unhcr Conference In

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

B. NASSAU 2336

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1. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and
the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
co-hosted the second annual regional seminar in Nassau, The
Bahamas on November 8-12, 2004. Entitled "Contingency
Planning for Mixed Migratory Flows in the Caribbean:
Effective Practices and Tools for the Future", the conference
touched on migration issues such as contingency planning,
registration of migrants, medical screening, and refugee
status determination as they pertain to the region. Perhaps
the biggest accomplishment of the seminar was to have most
country representatives express not only the desirability but
also the urgency to have contingency plans for mass migration
in place. End Summary

Mass Migration Plans
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2. Delegates from twenty countries in the Caribbean came
together to discuss common concerns and share ideas for
contingency planning efforts in case of a potential mass
migration due to political crisis or disaster-related
emergencies in the area. The seminar brought together
natural disaster planners, officials from immigration and
foreign ministries of 20 Caribbean countries, and UNHCR
"honorary liaisons," as well as representatives from observer
countries. Participants found that the problems and issues
on mass migration and natural disaster planning discussed
during the first conference in December 2003 came to fruition
with the political crisis in Haiti and the hurricane season
in 2004. These crises made the countries take a good look at
their internal systems for coping with disasters and realize
that they need assistance to set up a system within their
country disaster plans to deal with mass migration
emergencies. The seminar was well received, with
participating government officials urging one another not to
be complacent and to put structures in place to respond to
mass migrations, as they realized that their country could be
affected by such a crisis next.

3. In part due to UNHCR,s and IOM efforts, and in part due
to the events earlier this year, government representatives
who expressed little interest in developing contingency plans
of mass migration two years ago, were now sharing
recommendations with other Caribbean countries, identifying
shortcomings in planning preparedness, and even recommending
that the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA)
add plans for mass migration to its contingency plan for
natural disaster. At the same time, these countries are
keenly aware of their limited resources and capacities, not
only to develop such plans but more importantly to absorb and
deal with a real crisis.

4. Several panel discussions revolved around the experiences
of Caribbean countries affected by the Haitian crisis earlier
this year. Participants benefited from hearing the very real
situations confronted by the various agencies and services of
the receiving countries. In discussions on effective
management of crises, participants identified some existing
strengths in internal coordination and networking, in meeting
basic needs, in status determination, and regional agreements
and exchanges. Areas of weakness included lack of
legislation, cultural and language barriers, and the fact
that more than a few migrants quickly becomes a crisis.
Again, the issue of preparedness and potential impact of
dealing with what would seem to be small number of in-coming
migrants, underlined the need for capacity building
assistance for these small island nations.

5. Delegates also had a chance to participate in workshops
focused on issues such as public health related to mass
migration, the protection of migrant workers, border
security, refugee status determination and the quality of
asylum during separate workshop sessions. Participants
engaged in role-play, sub-regional working groups to discuss
tools for effective management and protection during mixed
migratory flows.

6. Strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement
on response mechanisms were addressed. Delegates identified
the need to coordinate not only on a regional basis but also
internally within their own governments. Many agreed there
were no mechanisms in place for a quick response. Although
Haiti and Grenada were used as case studies for most of the
discussions, governments agreed that similar situations could
occur in their own countries. This realization that influx
could potentially happen to nearly any Caribbean country and
the need to prepare for it, is exactly the result the USG
hoped for in supporting these joint IOM/UNHCR seminars over
the past few years. Other migration issues such as
refugees/asylum seekers, legal/illegal migrants, trafficking
victims, and smuggled migrants were also on the agenda.
Although the countries involved recognized that they had come
along way since last year,s seminar, they also realized that
they still have a long way to go before they are able to
manage migration within their region. Delegates, conscious
of the connection between migration management and
national/regional security, requested continuing assistance
and training from UNHCR and IOM to manage their own borders
while recognizing the human rights of refugees and migrants.

Common Themes
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7. Common themes and concerns emerged over the course of the
conference from several of the countries across the region.
Although many of the countries in the southeastern region of
the Caribbean do not face the same fears of massive influxes
of Haitian migrants, even small numbers of illegal migrants
can still wreak havoc on these tiny island nations. Several
countries described the migration to their countries as a
&trickle8 Delegates seemed to agree that part of their
emergency action plans for natural disasters need to include
instructions on how to handle detained migrants.

8. Examples of common concerns regarding migration were
varied dependent upon the location of the country, and the
likelihood for mass influxes. Nevertheless, most topics were
of interest to all delegates. Multiple participants queried
the panels for insight on whether or not to use schools for
shelters during a mass influx of migrants or a natural
disaster, as this often causes long delays in the opening of
schools. Many delegates also voiced concern over how to
handle migrants who are known to have criminal records. The
prohibitive cost of establishing temporary housing for
migrants and their repatriation is overwhelming to small
island nations.

Who Participated?
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9. The seminar welcomed the current Consul General from U.S.
Consulate Monterey, Luis Moreno, who recently completed his
tour as DCM in Port au Prince. CG Moreno has considerable
experience with migration issues in the region, and shared
his insights on the panel involving early warning and
monitoring systems. In addition, he was able to answer some
of the questions and comments put forth by the Cuban
delegates to the conference with regards to bilateral
migration agreements by saying there are no formal
arrangements, but the U.S. makes semi-regular repatriations
to Cuba in coordination with the Interest Section in Havana.
The United States Coast Guard also sent a spokesman, Orsini
Louis, the Assistant Chief of the Law Enforcement Office, to
discuss the reception and registration of migrants on Coast
Guard cutters in the Caribbean. U.S. Embassy officials and
PRM program officers also attended the seminar.

10. Representatives from twenty countries in the region were
present at this conference to share their country,s
experience with migration. Although questions and
conversations gravitated to the topic of outflows of Haitians
through certain countries to the United States, all
participants took away valuable information on how to manage
the needs and the costs of illegal migrants. Perhaps the
most important aspects of this seminar were to raise
awareness of the variety of issues that need to be addressed
before the migrant arrives, and it also formed an informal
network for the delegates to contact one another for
information sharing.

11. In his opening statement, Vincent Peet, Minister of
Labor and Immigration welcomed everyone to the seminar
co-organized by IOM and UNHCR and which benefited from the
assistance of the Bahamian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and
the Department of Immigration and Disaster Planning
represented by the National Emergency Management Agency
(NEMA). Minister Peet spoke of the rise in international
migration and the urgency to address the impact of this trend
on national economies, the need to develop contingency plans
for mass outflows, concerns for refugee and asylum seekers,
the challenges of border management and security
(biometrics), and the highly disturbing phenomenon of
trafficking in persons. He highlighted the long-standing
relationship of the Bahamas with UNHCR and IOM. UNHCR has
worked closely with The Bahamas on matters pertaining to
potential asylum seekers and refugees, and detainees in the
Detention Center. IOM has several capacity-building
migration management projects underway in the Bahamas, and
has assisted the Bahamas with the voluntary repatriation of a
number of Asian and African nationals. IOM,s support
resulted in the Bahamas application for full IOM membership,
which was approved at the eighty-eighth session of the IOM
Council in Geneva, on November 30, 2004.

Plea for Haiti Speech
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
12. At the end of the seminar, Haiti,s Ambassador Louis
Harold Joseph requested floor time to address the
participants. He thanked nations and international
organizations for intervening in Haiti to help stabilize the
country and to bring aid to the victims of the floods and
hurricanes. He spoke of the Haitian government's awareness
of the potential problems caused by sudden exodus of Haitian
nationals to other countries in the region, as well as
Haiti,s commitment to respect commitments made by previous
governments on migratory issues. Ambassador Joseph said that
while insecurity in Haiti is often attributed to political
strife, it is important to stress that it also finds roots in
social and economic problems such as urban banditry, drug
trafficking, and the despair of unemployed youth. He noted
that Haiti has seen no significant growth in twenty-five
years, while population grows at an annual rate of 1.5% (life
expectancy is 53 years, infant mortality is 8%, HIV/AIDS
affects 5% of the population, and only 68% of the children
benefit from primary education). He concluded by saying that
while the democratic process is under way in Haiti with
renewed dialogue among government, political parties and
civil society, success is contingent on the realization of
promises made by the international community to assist Haiti.

Visit to Nassau Detention Center
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13. Political Officer, PRM program officers, CG Moreno,
UNHCR and IOM staff took a tour of the controversial migrant
detention center in Nassau during a break from the
conference. The detention center has been criticized in
Amnesty International reports and other human rights
organizations for inhumane practices and human rights abuses
in the past year. (See Reftels). Although there were no
obvious signs of abuse, the center does suffer from lack of
funding and possible mismanagement. The female detainees
complained about the inadequate provision of meals and the
lack of milk for the children. Some Cuban women were
pleading not to be returned to Cuba. While lack of timely
meals was brought up by and echoed by several detainees, as
well as unwillingness to be returned, there was no mention of
beatings. The water purification project funded by the
Ambassador,s Fund was not yet completed at the time of the
visit due to an additional need for a water pump. The
government officials at the facility believed that they could
provide the contractors with a used water pump to improve the


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