Search

 

Cablegate: Mauritanian Refugees: The Dilemma of Return

VZCZCXRO1955
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1764/01 2401205
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281205Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9077
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 001764

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL PREF MR SG
SUBJECT: MAURITANIAN REFUGEES: THE DILEMMA OF RETURN

REF: A) Dakar 1570 B)Dakar 1577

SUMMARY
-------
1. (SBU) On July 31, Poloff visited refugee villages in Dagana and
Dodel to seek the opinions of refugees regarding recent initiatives
by the Mauritanian Government inviting them to return home and
President Wade's statement that those who wish to remain in Senegal
will be granted Senegalese citizenship. Poloff also visited the
local UNHCR office in Podor. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Many refugees welcomed a high level Mauritanian delegation
led by the Minister Interior sent to Senegal to visit them. The
refugees stated that this was an: "acknowledgement of the
government's responsibility for their deportation in 1989." The
refugees demand that their return be organized under the auspices of
UNHCR and that full reparations be paid for prejudices sustained.
These conditions and the insistence by some for the prosecution of
Mauritanian officials they accuse of having committed crimes at the
time of deportation are significant obstacles ahead. There appears
to be a dilemma for many refugees we spoke to who are proud of their
Mauritanian citizenship, reject President Wade's offer of Senegalese
citizenship, but who also fear that their economic situations may
deteriorate after they return home and that their children will lose
the educational opportunities they currently have in Senegal.

THE MAURITANIAN GOVERNMENT CARES
--------------------------------
3. (SBU) One of the youth leaders in the refugee village of Dagana
indicated that many refugees living in the River Valley, up to Bakel
were visited by the Minister of Interior's delegation. He noted
with satisfaction that: "the Government of Mauritania has recognized
the deportation we suffered and has asked for forgiveness." He
commented that there is goodwill and openness on the part of the
Government of Mauritania which inspires confidence that this time
the initiative for return is serious. He noted that the only time
the Mauritanian delegation was uncooperative is when refugees raised
the issue of prosecuting those crimes perpetrated by security forces
during the deportation.

UNHCR IS UNDERTAKING A NEW CENSUS
---------------------------------
4. (SBU) UNHCR has recently completed the census of the refugee
population. The census was carried out by university students
attending the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar and the
University of Gaston Berger in St Louis. Almost all villages have
been taken into account except those of nomadic herdsmen who have
traveled south with their cattle in search of grazing land. This
new census will provide updated figures to correct the estimate of
20,000 that has been used for several years.

OBSTACLES TO ORGANIZED RETURN
-----------------------------
5. (SBU) Refugee leaders emphasized the need for a signed agreement
between Mauritania, UNHCR, and Senegal to offer them guarantees
about the conditions under which they will return. They are
particularly concerned about their lands and homes which are now
occupied by others, and the reinstatement of civil servants to their
former jobs. They demand reparations for property lost and crimes
committed during the deportation. Meanwhile, many refugees who have
been living for 18 years in Senegal have now acquired or been given
land and have their children in local French-language schools and
universities. The fear is that their children will lose these
educational opportunities after they return to a totally different
Mauritanian education system dominated by the use of Arabic.

MEETING UNHCR
-------------

6. (SBU) During a stop in the border town of Podor, Poloff called on
UNHCR's local representative, Thian Doum, who works for a local NGO
that UNHCR contracted to manage the issue of Mauritanian refugees.
This one-man office has responsibility for all of the refugees in
some 280 villages along a 450 km swath of border from Dagna to
Bakel. Mr. Doum told us that in 1989 there were over 60,000
refugees in Senegal and that he believes today's number could be
significantly higher than the oft-quoted 20,000 as many have had
families while in Senegal. While visiting the village of Dagna, we
were shown a questionnaire that UNHCR had handed out to all the
refugees and were told that by the aforementioned youth leaders
their worry that many of the questions were extremely open-ended.
Of particular concern were those related to property and previous
employment focusing only on people who used to work for the civil
service rather than herdsman and farmers who make up the bulk of the
refugees. When asked about this, Mr. Doum asked not to be quoted
and then agreed, adding it was very likely that UNHCR had used a
generic format.

COMMENT
-------

DAKAR 00001764 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) For several years the Senegalese and past Mauritanian
Governments have conspicuously avoided the divisive issue of
refugees to maintain a fragile entente cordiale. The recent visit
of the Mauritanian President to Senegal and the steps that both
governments and UNHCR have since taken to address an issue which has
been a bone of contention since 1989 is encouraging. The current
Mauritanian government's approach has warmed relationships between
the two countries and created hopes for the refugees. However,
negotiating conditions of return acceptable to all parties may prove
to be a frustrating and lengthy process.

SMITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN: As COVID Deaths Pass Two Million Worldwide, Guterres Warns Against Self-Defeating ‘Vaccinationalism'

With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General appealed on Friday for countries to work together and help each other to end the pandemic and save lives. In a video statement , Secretary-General António Guterres ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Washington Riot And The Georgia Results

Hong Kong and Washington DC. On the same morning, the tyrants in power in Beijing and their counterpart in the White House have shown how they refuse to accept the legitimacy of any different points of view, and the prospect of losing power… More>>

UN: Violent Attempt At US Capitol To ‘overturn’ Election, Shocking And Incendiary

Unsplash/ElevenPhotographs The US Capitol building in Washington D.C. A group of independent UN rights experts released ... More>>

UN: Guterres To Seek Second Five-year Term
António Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, which would begin in January 2022.... More>>