Cablegate: Situation of Congolese Refugees in Bamako
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHBP #1196 2911236
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181236Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAMAKO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8298
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 0357
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0019
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0404
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0163
UNCLAS BAMAKO 001196
ACCRA FOR REFCOORD
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM ML
SUBJECT: SITUATION OF CONGOLESE REFUGEES IN BAMAKO
REF: A. BAMAKO 01067
B. MESTETSKY-FEDZER EMAILS
1. Mamadou Sidibe, the acting director of the United Nations
High Commission for Refugee's (UNHCR) office in Mali, told
the Embassy on October 10 that UNHCR was unable to provide
further assistance to the 27 Congolese refugees now in
Bamako, effectively abandoning the Congolese to their fate on
the erroneous grounds that they had failed to qualify for
resettlement. It appears, in fact, that interference from
the Algerian government prevented any resettlements.
2. Algeria illegally deported the group, which had already
received refugee status from UNHCR, to Mali on August 25.
The group then spent three weeks in northern Mali, caught
between land mines and Tuareg rebel cross-fire, until a
report on Radio France alerted UNHCR to their predicament
(ref A). With assistance from their headquarters in Dakar,
UNHCR succeeded in transporting the 27 men to Bamako. The
Association of Former UN Volunteers, which partners with
UNHCR in Mali, provided each Congolese with USD 80 upon
arrival in Bamako. This is currently the extent of UNHCR's
assistance to the Congolese.
3. We find UNHCR's attitude toward the 27 Congolese refugees
troubling. The Congolese reported that UNHCR officials were
dismissive of their situation and questioned the veracity of
their ordeal. The accusations were validated when UNHCR
officials repeated these allegations to the Embassy,
describing the refugees as "ungrateful" and overly-interested
in resettlement. One UNHCR employee told the Embassy that
the Congolese were "not to be trusted." Subsequent
information provided to Embassy Mali by Embassy Algiers,
UNHCR Algiers, UNHCR Cairo and the International Office of
Migration, however, has subsequently verified the refugees'
account. This information was passed to UNHCR Mali.
4. Acting Director Sidibe claimed that by hiring a truck to
rescue the refugees from northern Mali and arranging for a
one-time payment of USD 80 upon arrival in Bamako, UNHCR had
already surpassed what it would normally do for refugees. He
claimed that because the UNHCR office in Mali is not a "real"
office but only a shoe-string operation of three people
designed to manage "urgent and exceptional" cases, UNHCR was
unable to do anything more for the group beyond assuring that
they had legal protection from the Malian government.
5. Sidibe said UNHCR had a contract with the Association of
Former UN Volunteers to help refugees locate and pay for
medical care. On October 15 several refugees reported that
the UN Volunteers Association turned ill members of their
group away, claiming that there were no funds to cover
medical consultations or purchase medicines. The Director of
the Association confirmed this and said he was awaiting
additional funding from UNHCR.
6. Considering the serious and rapidly deteriorating
condition of the Congolese, and our hope that a resettlement
country will be soon identified (ref B), we urged Sidibe to
ask UNHCR's headquarters in Dakar to authorize and provide
funding for food and lodging while the Congolese await
resettlement, but it is unclear that Sidibe will make such a
7. This cable was cleared by Embassy Algiers.