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Cablegate: Unhcr Concerned About Revoked

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

UNCLAS DJIBOUTI 000961

SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL DJ ET ER SO
SUBJECT: UNHCR CONCERNED ABOUT REVOKED
ASYLUM STATUS FOR REFUGEES FROM ERITREA AND
ETHIOPIA

1. (U) Summary. On September 20 UNHCR Country
Representative met with Ambassador and ConOff to raise concerns
about refugees in Djibouti. On September 14 refugees in the
transit camp of Aour Aoussa were allegedly told that they had 36
hours to leave. UNHCR was most concerned about Eritrean and
Ethiopian refugees whose asylum status was suddenly being
revoked and sought support in opposing Djibouti's decision. End
Summary.

2. (U) UNHCR Country Representative Collins Asare,
accompanied by a representative of the World Food Program, met
with Ambassador and ConOff to ask for USG support in opposing
the decision of the Government of Djibouti (GoD) to revoke the
asylum status for 74 Eritreans and 109 Ethiopians resident in
Djibouti. Fifty-one Ethiopians who were given asylum status by
UNHCR were allowed to stay. But those that had been granted
status by the GoD in 2004, had the status revoked and were asked
to leave.

3. (U) Asare conceded that 80% of the individuals in the camp,
mostly those of Somali origin, should be resettled. He said
UNHCR believes that the majority of the self-proclaimed refugees
are actually Djiboutians, or ethnic Somalis from stable areas.
UNHCR has been repatriating thousands of Somalis to northern
Somalia over the past two years.

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4. (U) Asare's concern focused on the GoD's revocation of the
refugees' status without warning and without consultation with
UNHCR. According to Asare, U.N. ordinance number
77053/P.R/A.E. dictates that the GoD is obliged to consult
UNHCR before taking such an action except in urgent cases of
national security.

5. (U) Asare asked for U.S. support to oppose the action of the
GoD. He asked that we pressure the government to allow the
refugees to stay longer until the situation in their countries
stabilizes. Alternatively, he suggested that we could simply ask
the GoD to include UNHCR in the decisions regarding refugees.
He indicated that he would also approach the French Embassy with
the same request.

6. (U) Ambassador listened but declined to commit to such action
given the U.S. interest in early repatriation of many of the Aour
Aussa refugees who have been established as economic migrants
vice refugees from conflict. She asked, however, if any specific
action had been taken by the Government of Djibouti to enforce
the directive that Aour Aoussa refugees depart. Asare responded
that although the refugees were told they had 36 hours to leave, no
action has been taken yet to remove them. Also, no specifics were
given about what might happen if they did not leave. It is not clear
if they will be allowed to remain in one of the other refugee camps
after Aour Aoussa closes, or allowed to assimilate into Djibouti.
Embassy will track developments on this issue and provide
reporting and commentary.

RAGSDALE

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