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Cablegate: Time for the Mauritanians to Go Home

VZCZCXRO5561
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1577 2110750
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 300750Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8894
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAKAR 001577

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL/AE AND INR/AA
PARIS FOR POL - D'ELIA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINS PREF SG
SUBJECT: Time for the Mauritanians to go Home


Summary
-------
1. (SBU) In a meeting with Charge d'Affaires, the United Nations
High Commission for Refugees' (UNHCR) Regional Representative,
Rosaline Idowu, was upbeat that a large percentage of the 20,000
Mauritanian refugees remaining in the Senegal River Valley would
return home. She confirmed President Wade's statement that he would
grant those that choose to stay Senegalese citizenship. She also
emphasized that regionally the refugee situation had improved vastly
and that as a result of reduced caseloads her regional office in
Dakar would increase the number of countries that it oversees. End
Summary

2. (SBU) Currently, there are some 20,000 Mauritanian refugees
living in villages scattered across Senegal's northern border. Many
of them have been there since 1989 and have refused to return unless
the Mauritanian government could guarantee them return of the
citizenship status which many lost after they were expelled by the
then-ruling Junta. After winning the election, the new Mauritanian
President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi pledged that this issue
would be a top priority for his government and on June 29 he asked
UNHCR for assistance in repatriating them. As of now UNHCR has
prepared a tripartite agreement which it hopes the governments of
Senegal and Mauritania will sign in September. The repatriation
would then begin after the end of Ramadan. Idowu expects that it
will take at most a year. On the Mauritanian side, the local UNHCR
office will assist the returnees for a period of 18 months to
include assistance with housing, schooling and employment. She
optimistically expects about 14,000 to return with the remaining
6,000 staying in Senegal. Those remaining behind will do so because
they have either married locally or found a niche which they do not
want to leave.

3. (SBU) Regionally, Idowu has seen the refugee caseload drop
significantly with the return of Sierra Leonean and Liberian
refugees to their home countries. She is also working with ECOWAS
to amend their charter to allow refugees who do not want to return
the right to stay and work via the issuance of a three year
residency/work visa. Under the ECOWAS's charter, citizens of member
countries have freedom of movement and can set up business within
the ECOWAS zone. As a result of this diminishing caseload, UNHCR's
Dakar office will be responsible for ten countries by 2008, and 14
by 2009.
Smith

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