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Cablegate: Djibouti Takes Steps to Address Growing Refugee Burden

VZCZCXRO8666
PP RUEHDE RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDJ #0631 2111503
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291503Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9417
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS DJIBOUTI 000631

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E, PRM/AFR, AND S/CRS
ADDIS ABABA FOR REFCOORD
NAIROBI FOR RDRAPCHO AND REFCOORD
GENEVA FOR KPERKINS
CJTF-HOA FOR POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL SMIG SO DJ
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI TAKES STEPS TO ADDRESS GROWING REFUGEE BURDEN

REF: A) DJIBOUTI 582
B) DJIBOUTI 508 (AND PREVIOUS)
C) DJIBOUTI 482 (AND PREVIOUS)
D) DJIBOUTI 223

1. (U) SUMMARY: WFP officials report observing an estimated
5,000-20,000 refugees and assumed asylum-seekers in urban areas
of Djibouti--a significant burden on a country whose total
population numbers approximately 600,000. To address the
growing number of refugees crossing into Djibouti from the
border with Somaliland, the GoDJ has allowed UNHCR to construct
a reception site at Loyada. The GoDJ is also expected to
promulgate a new presidential decree pertaining to the
operations of the National Eligibility Office, which is mandated
to review applications for refugee status and resettlement in
Djibouti. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) A high-level mission from WFP Geneva (meeting July 12?
16 with donor representatives and GoDJ officials to discuss the
GoDJ?s decision to expel the WFP country director for Djibouti,
REF A) reported observing an estimated 5,000-20,000 refugees and
asylum-seekers in urban areas of Djibouti. The team visited
areas and populations severely affected by the drought and
soaring food prices. According to UNHCR, in many urban areas
visited, the WFP mission observed urban refugees who do not
receive assistance; registered asylum-seekers (non-Somalis)
resident in Djibouti, but whose claims have not yet been
determined for over five years; and persons who are waiting to
be listed for individual status determination.

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3. (U) Separately, the GoDJ approved plans allowing UNCHR to
build a reception site near the Somalia border, to process newly
arrived refugees. Construction began early July and is expected
to be completed by mid-August. On July 19, Post?s Refugee
Officer visited the site with UNCHR Representative Ann Encontre.
The site is located inside Djibouti, 0.5 km from the Djiboutian
police checkpoint at Loyada, near Djibouti?s border with
Somaliland. Initially, UNHCR requested permission to build the
site in the no-man?s-land between the Somaliland and Djibouti
borders. The Ministry of Interior agreed; however, the Ministry
of Defense reportedly blocked the request, for unknown reasons.

4. (U) On July 21, the GoDJ reinstituted its National
Eligibility Office, which had been inactive for five years. The
office?s mandate is to make refugee status determinations,
therefore allowing non-Djiboutians to resettle in Djibouti. In
2000, the GoDJ signed a decree to create this body and a
commission to oversee its work; however, standard operational
procedures were not developed, and the office failed to
function. According to UNHCR, Djibouti?s president is expected
to sign a new draft decree this week. UNHCR has drafted a
standard operating procedure to present to the GoDJ after the
signing of the decree, to help ensure that the National
Eligibility office functions properly.

5. (U) COMMENT. These steps by the Government of Djibouti
highlight the growing burden (REF D) that refugees--primarily
from Somalia--are placing on the smallest country in the Horn of
Africa. Conducting a census to identify the total number of
alien individuals in urban areas, determining their proper
status, and taking subsequent action to resettle or integrate
them remain challenges to be addressed by the GoDJ and its
partners.

WONG

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