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Cablegate: Pakistan - Growing Need for Refugee Resettlement

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






This message has been cleared by Embassy Islamabad


1. (SBU) The Cairo-based Regional Refugee Coordinator (for
resettlement) joined with the Islamabad Refugee Coordinator
and the Regional Director of the International Catholic
Migration Commission (ICMC) from October 3-8 to review the
U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program (USRP) in Pakistan. They
visited Islamabad, Peshawar and Karachi meeting with local
offices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
with NGOs and with the International Organization for
Migration (IOM).

2. (SBU) RefCoords concur with the UNHCR assessment that it
should be possible to develop a significant resettlement
caseload of Afghans in Pakistan towards the end of FY 2006
once the repatriation effort now under way has run its
course and the proposed registration exercise has been
completed. In the short term we can expect greater
collaboration between UNHCR and NGOs to produce increased
referrals of vulnerable Afghan cases, of Somalis, and some
Iranians. We agreed with UNHCR Peshawar to review a group
of Afghan Tajiks for possible resettlement and encouraged
Focus to work with us to identify suitable vulnerable
candidates from the Agfhan Ismailis in Karachi. UNHCR and
NGOs welcomed our proposal to hold a U.S. resettlement
workshop later in the year. Refcoords also looked at the
possibility of processing Iranian religious minorities in
Islamabad. End summary.

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Significant Numbers in the Past

3. (SBU) Cairo-based Regional Refugee Coordinator Cheyne
joined with Islamabad RefCoord Summers from October 3-8 to
review the likely refugee resettlement caseload in Pakistan.
Kevin Quigley, Regional Director for ICMC Istanbul,
accompanied RefCoords. ICMC is our refugee-processing
partner for Pakistan.

4. (SBU) The USRP, working with ICMC, resettled significant
numbers of Afghans and other nationalities from Pakistan
prior to 9/11. With the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan,
the focus inevitably shifted to repatriation and
resettlement numbers dropped significantly. The USRP
subsequently downsized its processing operation in Pakistan
accordingly although ICMC maintained a small sub-office in
Islamabad to deal with a continuing but somewhat smaller

5. (SBU) Cheyne and Quigley visited Islamabad and Peshawar
earlier in the year (March) to review the caseload and to
evaluate the scope for increasing the numbers from Pakistan.
It was felt that despite efforts to repatriate the many
Afghans in the country there should be significant numbers
of residual cases who would never return and for whom third
country resettlement would be the only realistic solution.
UNHCR subsequently suggested a follow-up visit in October
(after the census of Afghans in Pakistan) to review the
situation, to estimate a realistic caseload, and to work
with UNHCR to increase referrals accordingly. RefCoords met
with UNHCR offices in Islamabad, Peshawar and Karachi. They
also met with the Embassy's DHS officer, with NGOs, and with
the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Misconceptions About the US Program

6. (SBU) The timing of the visit was opportune since UNHCR
had recently taken on two new key staff members, Senior
Protection Officer, Beat Schuler, and Resettlement Officer,
Laura Almirall. In talks with the International Rescue
Committee (IRC) and other NGOs we found that the previous
UNHCR protection staff had been reluctant to increase
referrals to the USRP because they had assumed that the U.S.
program was hopelessly stalled with the augmented security
screening procedures introduced after 9/11. This attitude
had gained some currency in the refugee community in
Pakistan and cases that would have been suitable for the
USRP, were instead being diverted to the Canadian and
Australian programs.

7. (SBU) We were able to clarify the situation noting that
the U.S. process was now predictable and should be
relatively prompt with the presence of a full time DHS
officer in Islamabad and the maximum time taken for most SAO
clearances now reduced to around 35-40 days. The U.S.
program could process refugees as fast as, if not faster
than any other resettlement country. This struck a
responsive chord with the new staff at UNHCR in Islamabad
and with its sub-office in Peshawar and with the NGOs who
now seem more positive and more enthusiastic about the
prospect of working more closely with the USRP.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Resettlement of Vulnerable Cases Need Not Undermine
--------------------------------------------- ------

8. (SBU) It was agreed that while the main focus should
continue to be on repatriation, there was considerable scope
for building up third country resettlement as a solution for
the most vulnerable cases in such a way that did not
undermine repatriation efforts. The Peshawar sub-office of
UNHCR alone anticipates that it will refer 40 cases (200
individuals) to the US before the end of calendar 2005 and a
further caseload of around 150 (500-600 individuals) during
CY 2006. Additional caseloads should also be forthcoming
from Islamabad, Quetta and Karachi. UNHCR undertook to
collaborate more with NGOs to identify vulnerable cases for
referral to the USRP. UNHCR will reach out to NGOs in the
future requesting candidates for possible resettlement. IRC
was particularly receptive to the idea of identifying
suitable resettlement candidates from its work with
vulnerable cases in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
Most of the referrals in the short term will be extremely
vulnerable Afghan cases, e.g., women at risk, single women
heads of household etc., in addition to a number of Iraqi,
Iranian and Somali cases.

Possible Group Referral - Afghan Tajiks

9. (SBU) We also discussed with UNHCR Peshawar a possible
group submission of 130 Afghan Tajik families currently in
the NWFP. UNHCR believes this group will be unable to
return to Afghanistan.

USRP Workshop for NGOs and UNHCR

10. (SBU) We discussed the possibility of organizing a USRP
resettlement training workshop for NGOs and UNHCR offices to
build on their renewed enthusiasm for working with the U.S.
program. It was felt that such a workshop would be useful
to educate caseworkers and protection officers about USRP
criteria and procedures and to resolve any concerns they
might have about the USRP. UNHCR and IRC welcomed the idea
and we will work with ICMC to organize a workshop in
Islamabad (and possibly Peshawar) in November or December.

Afghan Ismailis

11. (SBU) We met with Focus (part of the Agha Khan
Foundation), the NGO that has assumed responsibility for the
care and protection of the few thousand Afghan Ismailis in
Pakistan - most of them in Karachi. During the March visit
Focus had expressed interest in developing a pilot program
of referrals of Ismaili vulnerable cases (women-at-risk,
single women heads of household etc). Focus had since
retreated from this proposal following UNHCR advice that the
U.S. resettlement program took too long. Focus was happy to
receive our assurance that the U.S. program was fully
functional and ready to work with the organization to
resettle eligible case - in a way that did not undermine the
organization's efforts to repatriate the majority of the
Ismailis in Pakistan. The Executive Officer of Focus
Pakistan, Karim Nayani offered to put this to a Focus board
meeting to be held in Nairobi on October 7

Iranian Religious Minorities

12. (SBU) During the visit we also discussed the possibility
of using ICMC Pakistan to process Iranian religious
minorities for resettlement. We will discuss this further
with PRM/A.


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