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Cablegate: Ifrc: Struggling with New Approach to Migration

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 GENEVA 000758

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR PRM/MCE/KPERKINS AND PRM/PIM/NKENNELLY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF EAID IFRC
SUBJECT: IFRC: STRUGGLING WITH NEW APPROACH TO MIGRATION

REF: GENEVA 692

1. (SBU) Summary: The International Federation of the Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) recently appointed
Thomas Linde to the newly created position of Special
Representative on Migration. Charged with the task of
developing a policy document for the IFRC and the national
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Linde is struggling to
pull together coherent guidelines for societies that often
hold contradictory approaches and views as to how best the
Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement can respond to the
humanitarian challenges of international migration.
Moreover, Linde is saddled with a Migration Reference Group
(MRG) that is heavily tilted towards Europe in its geographic
representation and a focus on Africa-to-Europe migration and
he admits he is unlikely to meet his first deadline to have a
policy framework document ready in time for the November IFRC
Governing Board meeting. Nevertheless, Linde seems excited
by the challenge and has promised to take a pragmatic
approach that will involve other national societies, such as
the American Red Cross, in the policy debate. End Summary.

2. (U) Refugee Officer (RefOff) met with Thomas Linde,
recently appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary
General on Migration for the International Federation of the
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Linde comes to
this newly created position having most recently served as
Head of the UN Mission in Sudan (2005-2007). He has an
extensive professional background within the Red Cross and
Red Crescent Movement and worked on asylum issues with the
Swiss government earlier in his career. Linde took up his
new duties on July 1. (Note: A more detailed description of
Linde's professional background is included reftel. End
note.)

Crafting a Policy Framework
---------------------------

3. (SBU) Linde said his main task in the coming months is to
prepare a policy framework for the IFRC that will guide the
national societies working on international migration. Linde
said that he is technically required to have such a framework
document ready for the next IFRC Governing Board meeting in
November, but believes he will likely have his document ready
only by the time of the spring 2009 Governing Board meeting.
He said that many national societies have different and often
contradictory approaches to the migration issue and that he
will need to hone these views into a single, practical set of
guidelines for all national societies. He acknowledged that
many past IFRC policy documents have proven to not be so
useful and recognizes that he will not be able to impose his
product on the national societies. At the same time, Linde
highlighted that the request for a Migration Policy grew out
of the regional discussions held by the national societies
and he is confident that he can strike the right balance.

4. (SBU) RefOff asked Linde if he could elaborate on the
type of activities he envisioned national societies
conducting, noting that the U.S. believes IFRC might be
stepping outside of its traditional mandate in taking up
international migration as a issue for the organization.
Linde underlined that IFRC's roll is not to interpret an
auxiliary role for national societies nor does IFRC wish to
establish a framework that would encourage national societies

GENEVA 00000758 002 OF 003


to take on a migration management role for governments. He
cited, as an example, the Canadian Red Cross, which conducts
migrant detention visits in Canada. Although he believes
this is a positive example of cooperation between one
national society and its government, he believes some
national societies are so close to their governments that he
would not want to see these societies conducting detention
visits.

5. (SBU) RefOff noted however that the Council of Delegates
resolution on International Migration, passed in November
2007, calls on national societies to provide services to
vulnerable migrants "throughout the entire migratory cycle,"
including return and reintegration. RefOff stated that this
seemed to be a very broad statement and explained that the
U.S. believes other organizations, particularly the
International Organization for Migration (IOM), are better
placed to work with governments on many activities. Linde
affirmed that he had no intention of pitting IFRC and the
national societies in competition with organizations such as
IOM, but would instead focus on the real humanitarian needs
that migrants often suffer during the migration process.

Migration Reference Group
-------------------------

6. (SBU) Linde said the he will hold the first meeting of
the Migration Reference Group (MRG) on September 24. He
stressed that IFRC President had appointed the members of the
MRG before he came on board, noting that it is too big and
unbalanced, but that it is too late for him to change the
composition of the MRG (Note: MRG members are national Red
Cross societies as outlined below). He assured RefOff that
the MRG was only a sounding board and that his office will
establish the actual policy framework (Linde currently has
one assistant working with him and he will soon add two more
staff). Linde also acknowledged that the American Red Cross
(ARC) had expressed its dissatisfaction at not having been
named to the MRG, and he readily admitted there is a real
"danger of a European" slant in IFRC's approach as reflected
in the current MRG membership. Linde said he will open up a
consultative dialogue with ARC and other important national
societies alongside that of the MRG.

7. (U) Linde listed the following national societies as MRG
members:

- The Americas: Canada, Haiti, Ecuador.
- Africa: Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Somalia, Sudan.
- Europe: Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, France, UK.
- Asia: Australia, the Philippines.

Coordination With the National Societies
----------------------------------------

8. (U) RefOff asked how Linde would carry out the regional
consultative process as outlined in the Plan 2008-2009
document. Linde said that he will work directly with the
newly established Zone Offices who in turn will coordinate
with the national societies in their respective regions to
help prioritize activities and input for the IFRC migration
policy. (Note: See reftel for the location of IFRC's Zone
Offices. End note.) He also hopes the Zone Offices will set
up migration sub-groups with the national societies to ensure

GENEVA 00000758 003 OF 003


continuity of the work. However, he noted there will only be
one regional consultative meeting before his policy document
will be finalized. This will be held in Johannesburg, South
Africa, from October 19-22. Linde confirmed there will be a
Migration Working Group at the Conference.

Comment
-------

9. (SBU) Although the "Together for Humanity" declaration
passed at the 30th International Conference last November
highlighted international migration as a new policy focus
area for the Movement, Linde is still struggling with the
type of activities he imagines should form the backbone of
that policy. Despite his assurances to the contrary, it is
not clear to us at this stage how he can shake loose from the
"European" drive behind this initiative, which is mostly
focused on Africa-to-Europe migration flows. Nevertheless,
Linde seems to be genuinely interested in hearing opposing
views and is looking for ways to work constructively with
important national societies left out of the process up to
now, including the American Red Cross.
TICHENOR

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