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Cablegate: Zimbabwean Migration to Mozambique: Opinions Vary

VZCZCXRO6803
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHTO #1239/01 2961001
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231001Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY MAPUTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8113
RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE 1089
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0064
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MAPUTO 001239

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SMIG PREF MZ ZM
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWEAN MIGRATION TO MOZAMBIQUE: OPINIONS VARY

REF: STATE 109594

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) NGO and local government officials in Manica Province,
which shares a border with Zimbabwe, estimate that up to 10,000
Zimbabweans are currently living in Manica Province, with new
arrivals every day. In response to the uncertainty of the
situation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
in Mozambique has been monitoring the border and has recently
updated its contingency plan should the situation in Zimbabwe
continue to deteriorate. The British High Commission in Maputo is
also closely watching Zimbabwe and has formulated its own plan for
fleeing UK, Irish and Canadian citizens that may enter Mozambique.
While the national government (GRM) has yet to implement a plan, it
has lifted visa requirements for Zimbabweans, and believes that
recent border activity is part of the normal movement of people
within SADC. The Embassy continues to coordinate with civil and
international actors and to press the GRM to consider contingency
planning - even though a humanitarian crisis may not unfold in the
short term.

--------------------------------------------
AT THE BORDER: ZIMBABWEAN NUMBERS INCREASING
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Manica Town in Manica Province sits 18 km from the Zimbabwe
border and is the first barometer for the situation of Zimbabweans
crossing into Mozambique. In a recent visit by PolOff and
PolSpecialist, the mayor of Manica said his city has grown by the
thousands in the past few years due to the number of Zimbabweans
settling in Manica. While initially most movement consisted of
women coming to Manica and Chimoio to sell goods or buy commodities
such as chicken, bread, and sugar, many visitors are now opting to
stay as the situation in Zimbabwe has become more unstable. The
mayor also noted that Zimbabweans continue to stay due to
difficulties in distinguishing between Zimbabweans and Mozambicans
(many in the region share a common tribal background) and a lack of
interest in the issue by local law enforcement officials.
International Office on Migration officials told PolOff that they
estimate that there are anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 Zimbabweans
currently living in Manica Province, the majority being women. NGOs
and local officials agree that cultural and linguistic affinities
and a history of cross border movement are strong factors that would
lead Zimbabweans to enter Mozambique in the event of a worsening
situation.

------------------------------------
UNHCR: NEW CONTINGENCY PLAN IN PLACE
------------------------------------

3. (SBU) The resident UNHCR director briefed Poloff on 10/15 on the
organization's border monitoring exercises for the past several
years and indicated that the UNHCR recently updated its contingency
plan in the event of a meltdown in Zimbabwe. As Zimbabweans have
begun entering South Africa in larger numbers, UNHCR has also made
the decision to open an office in Chimoio with a staff dedicated to
border monitoring to see if the same was happening at the Mozambican
border. While UNHCR acknowledges a growing number of Zimbabweans
entering Mozambique, they have had only one case of a Zimbabwean
requesting refugee status so far. In most cases, UNHCR has observed
Zimbabweans integrating relatively easily, particularly since many
are educated and highly skilled entering a country that continues to
lack qualified workers. While UNHCR estimates that up to 75,000
Zimbabweans could enter Mozambique should the economic situation in
Zimbabwe collapse, they believe the situation will more likely
follow the "Angolan model," whereby many Angolans temporarily
settled and worked in South Africa (although not as refugees) and
quickly returned once the situation stabilized.

---------------------------------------
THE BRITISH: MOZAMBIQUE A TRANSIT ROUTE
---------------------------------------

4. (SBU) In a meeting with Emboffs, the British Deputy High
Commissioner noted that HMG has formulated a comprehensive plan to
deal with a political/economic collapse in Zimbabwe. The High
Commission has already logged all U.K. citizens and dependents,
along with Canadians and Irish remaining in Zimbabwe, and has
visited the Mozambique/Zimbabwe border on multiple occasions. While
they plan to staff a "greeting center" near Manica should an influx
of these citizens fleeing Zimbabwe enter Mozambique, they currently
estimate that because of language issues, citizens likely would only
use Mozambique as a transit country en route to Malawi or Zambia.
The High Commission believes that the UNHCR estimate of 75,000
Zimbabweans potentially fleeing to Mozambique was a very
conservative figure.


MAPUTO 00001239 002 OF 002


----------------------------------------
GRM: NO VISAS NEEDED, NO REFUGEE PROBLEM
----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) On October 3, the governments of Zimbabwe and Mozambique
agreed to lift visa requirements for citizens entering their
respective countries as of November 1--Zimbabwe had been the last
country sharing a border with Mozambique without a visa waiver
agreement. While some NGO contacts have confided to Emboffs that
they fear that the agreement could lead to a massive inflow of
Zimbabweans, the GRM is dismissing these concerns. Indeed, even as
the crisis in Zimbabwe has worsened, the public GRM stance has
remained unchanged: cross border movement by Zimbabweans into
Mozambique is part of the natural movement of people from one SADC
country to another. As such, the GRM has not participated in any
contingency planning with the UNHCR or other countries.

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COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) The historical movement of people across the shared border
in the past 30 years, spanning both the Zimbabwean independence war
and the Mozambican civil war, coupled with cultural, linguistic, and
familial affinities in the border region could help Zimbabweans to
temporarily assimilate in Mozambique. Indeed, absent an influx of
tens of thousands of Zimbabweans in a very short period of time,
Mozambique may be able to absorb the new arrivals without creating a
significant humanitarian problem in the near term. For now though,
the GRM is treating the Zimbabwe situation as an internal matter,
and the status of Zimbabweans in Mozambique remains largely under
the radar. The effects of ending visa requirements between the two
countries remains to be seen, but could make tracking Zimbabweans in
Mozambique a more difficult task. Meanwhile, we continue to monitor
the situation closely, coordinating with civil society and
diplomatic contacts, while urging GRM counterparts to evaluate
potential consequences of a worsening situation and to contemplate
an appropriate response. END COMMENT

CHAPMAN

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