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Cablegate: Visit to Iranian Refugee Settlement in Iraqi Kurdistan

VZCZCXRO6371
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #4568 3491337
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151337Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8505
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 004568

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV PHUM IZ
SUBJECT: Visit to Iranian Refugee Settlement in Iraqi Kurdistan


This is a Kurdistan Regional Reconstruction Team cable.

1. (SBU) RRT Officer and U.S. Civil Affairs Team Leader, 25th
Infantry Division, visited Barika Refugee Open Settlement for
Iranian Kurdish refugees in Sulaimaniyah Province in the Kurdistan
Region of Iraq on December 6. By way of background, the settlement
is home to approximately 277 Iranian Kurdish families, most of whom
arrived from Al-Tash Refugee Camp in the Anbar Province of western
Iraq in 2005. The settlement is administered by Qandil, a Swedish
company funded by SIDA, the Swedish government's aid organization,
which entered into a cooperative partnership with the United
Nations.

--------------------------------------------- --
OBSERVATIONS DURING VISIT TO REFUGEE SETTLEMENT
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (SBU) RRT officer and CA Team Leader found the following during
their visit to Barika Refugee Settlement.

3. (SBU) A seven-member council elected by the refugees themselves
oversees the daily management of the settlement. The living
conditions at the settlement are comparable to those of the Iraqi
Kurdish residents living an adjacent village on top of a hill named
Barika, but the refugees want greater access to local services.

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4. (SBU) The refugees live in 250 cement-block homes of three to
five rooms with electricity, sewage, and water facilities. An
additional 100 homes are under construction. They share their water
supply with the adjacent Iraqi Kurdish village. The settlement
residents have adequate water but must purchase water at times.
There is a medical clinic on the site, but it has limited hours so
people must travel to the hospital in Arbat town, about five
kilometers away, in case of an emergency. The refugees maintain
they need a larger school in the area to avoid double shifts for
classes, but this is a common problem in the Kurdish region. The
settlement relies on police protection from Arbat.

5. (SBU) The desire of the refugees in the settlement to assimilate
is unclear. It appears they want third-country resettlement, but
this is not an option because they enjoy freedom from persecution in
Sulaimaniyah. The refugees in the settlement contend they can not
hold government jobs or obtain an Iraqi driver's license.

----------------------------------
REMARKS BY UNHCR DIRECTOR IN ERBIL
----------------------------------

6. (SBU) On December 11 The UNHCR Director for the Kurdistan Region
told RRT Officer that negotiations are underway with the local
authorities in Sulaimaniyah to arrange for the refugees to obtain to
obtain driver's licenses, purchase real estate, and hold fixed
contract jobs in both the public and private sectors if they hold a
UNHCR ration card. According to the director, Iranian Kurdish
refugees in Erbil Province already have these rights.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Iran opposed the resettlement of refugees from
Anbar to Sulaimaniyah province, claiming they were engaged in
hostile political activity. Sulaimaniyah authorities may well be
under pressure from Iran to limit refugee support and integration,
but the UNHCR believes that it will be successful in obtaining the
same rights for the refugees in Sulaiymaniyah as in Erbil.

Khalilzad

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