Cablegate: Amb. Foley Discusses Iraq Refugee Issues With

DE RUEHGV #0936/01 3121418
R 071418Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: Ambassador James B. Foley, Senior
Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues, visited Geneva from
October 28-30 to meet with Geneva humanitarian organizations
and donor missions. He was accompanied by Shirley Woodward
from PRM/ANE. Foley held meetings with officials from UNHCR,
ICRC, IFRC, IOM, WHO, ICMC, and held a round-table discussion
with more than 15 donor mission representatives. The visit
allowed Ambassador Foley the opportunity to brief officials
on U.S. views of the current return of Iraqi refugees and the
need for continued strong assistance to Iraqi refugees in
host countries in the region. End Summary.


2. (SBU) On October 28, DCM Storella hosted a dinner for
Ambassador Foley with key contacts from the Geneva-based
humanitarian organizations. Participants included Erika
Feller, Assistant High Commissioner, UNHCR; Andrew Harper,
Chief, Iraq Support Unit, UNHCR; Redhouane Saadi, Regional
Advisor, IOM; Ibrahim Osman, Deputy Secretary General,
International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
(IFRC); Dominik Stillhart, Deputy Director of Operations,
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Eric
Laroche, Assistant Director General, WHO; Johan Ketelers,
Secretary General, International Catholic Migration Center

3. (SBU) There was general consensus among the group that
the government of Iraq's current effort to promote refugee
returns is not credible and that the government is not
capable of receiving massive numbers of returnees. At the
same time, all agreed that the GOI did need technical support
to help build its capacity to respond to possible large-scale
refugee returns in the future. Several participants said
that the bulk of refugees planning to return to Iraq will
look closely at how well internally displaced persons (IDPs)
are welcomed back in their places of former residence and
will place a high premium on security conditions in their
specific neighborhoods before returning. While conceding that
the GOI remains unlikely to provide any direct support to
refugees in neighboring countries, there was agreement on the
need for the GOI to improve its outreach efforts towards the
refugees, which would, in turn, increase their confidence in
the government when the refugees do return to Iraq.

4. (SBU) Discussants agreed that to provide effective
support and increase the international community's
credibility, UN agencies need to boost their presence inside
Iraq and to increase their work beyond the international zone
in Baghdad. According to several participants, this will
also build confidence among local populations when they see
greater international presence in different parts of the
city. Stillhart and Osman both said that despite problems
with senior level management in the Iraqi Red Crescent
Society (IRCS), it still has the best local network of
contacts throughout Iraq for the delivery of humanitarian

5. (SBU) Feller expressed concerns that several European
countries are anxious to send Iraqis now offered temporary
asylum status back to Iraq and may be over-eager to accept
news of increased security in Iraq. She has been engaging
them to discourage non-voluntary returns at this point, or at
least to consider returns on a phased approach, e.g. limiting
them to those returning to areas known to be safe. Harper
also mentioned that the Netherlands is hosting an EU
Conference in the Hague next month that is designed to look
at conditions of return in Iraq but lamented that UNHCR is
not invited to this conference. (Note: Both Harper and IOM
officials separately confided that Danish Immigration
officials met with them this week to talk about possible
returns to Iraq and inquired as to access to social services
in places like Kirkuk. Harper, however, said that he is
unclear as to what exactly Denmark is interested in. End

--------------------------------------------- ------

6. (SBU) Ambassador Foley also met with Beatrice
Megevand-Roggo, Head of Operations for the Middle East and
North Africa at ICRC. Roggo said that ICRC's 2009 Iraq
Program will have a budget of around CHF 95 million (approx.
USD 85 million), or ten percent smaller than its 2008
program. She attributed the decrease mostly to the costs in
scaling up ICRC's presence in 2008 and the fact that there

GENEVA 00000936 002 OF 003

has not been additional massive displacement this year. ICRC
will concentrate on the health and water/sanitation sectors
inside Iraq. Roggo explained that ICRC's approach will be to
address community needs and not just to provide assistance to
returnees (IDPs) in its activities. She noted that targeting
only IDPs for assistance could create tension among residents
who have remained in place over the years and who may
perceive returning refugees and IDPs as privileged
individually, albeit a burden for the community. Thus,
ICRC's projects will be in areas with a high concentration of
IDPs but will aim to benefit the entire community. Roggo
cautioned that militia groups will have greater influence in
rural areas if international assistance does not also target
areas outside of Baghdad. According to Roggo, ICRC has
offices in Baghdad, Najaf and Basra, it has just opened an
office in Ramadi, and plans to open another office in Kirkuk.
Roggo explained that the public perception of ICRC is also
improving. ICRC had severely limited its exposure following
the bombing of its Baghdad office in 2003, such as driving in
unmarked vehicles and not advertising its work on community
projects. ICRC is increasingly using the Red Cross symbol on
its vehicles in select areas and communicating through public
means its assistance activities in Iraq so that the local
population understands what ICRC is doing.

7. (SBU) Ambassador Foley explained that most refugees will
wait to see how well IDP returns go before deciding whether
or not to return to Iraq. Foley described current efforts to
return IDPs to their former communities that have been
supported by MNF-I and GOI military units as having been
surprisingly successful in even the most difficult
communities in Baghdad, such as Hurriya. Roggo said she is
encouraged by this, but wondered whether or not such
expensive, smaller-scale operations can be sustained
financially and/or politically when applied at a much broader
level, particularly in those parts of Baghdad that have been
thoroughly "cleansed" ethnically. Roggo pointed to
experience in the Balkans that shows just how hard it can be
for people to return to areas occupied by opposing ethnic
populations. She said that although it is not politically
correct to discuss at this early stage, she is not convinced
that returns to all such ethnically "cleansed" areas in
Baghdad will be possible. Roggo said that while some
returnees do go to their original homes, others are going to
other parts of the city and renting their homes out to other
Iraqis in their communities of origin. Finally, Roggo said
another key factor for refugees will be the rehabilitation of
major infrastructure in Iraq. She said that not all Iraqi
refugees left for security reasons, but that day-to-day
living inside Iraq had become so difficult for many Iraqis
that leaving was the only rational solution. She explained
that corruption is a major factor behind the poor delivery of
services from the GOI.


8. (SBU) At IOM, Ambassador Foley met with Pasquale Lupoli,
Director of Operations; Davide Mosca, Director of Migration
Health Department; Michel Tonneau, Chief of Movement
Management Division; Marco Boasso, Chief of the Emergency
Division; and Redhouane Saadi, Regional Advisor. Foley
thanked IOM for the strong support on Iraqi resettlement in
FY2008 and stated that the U.S. is aiming even higher in
FY2009 on Iraqi return numbers. Foley also discussed efforts
to improve IOM access in Syria but noted that the latest
crisis in relations would make significant change unlikely in
the short run. Tonneau said the EU is sending an assessment
team to the region next week, composed of ten EU Member
States, in order to look at the possibility of an EU program
for Iraqi resettlement. IOM noted that the numbers of any
Iraqis to be resettled from this effort would likely be
small, but he is encouraged that France is leading this
initiative as it has recently agreed to resettle some 400-500
Iraqis, mostly from Syria and Baghdad.

9. (SBU) Foley mentioned that in-country processing seems to
be going well but asked if IOM could consider boosting its
current in-country staff from six to eight officers and to
extend deployment of its staff from four to six weeks on a
rotational basis. Foley stressed this had not been decided
yet within PRM but that it was important IOM not have any
personnel gaps in order to ensure a steady flow of referrals.
IOM replied that there are many issues that would need to be
considered, particularly with regard to the workload on its
staff, but he agreed that IOM cannot allow staffing gaps.
Tonneau requested further feedback from PRM as to what sort
of financial support IOM would receive. In response to a
question from Foley on employment verification of in-country

GENEVA 00000936 003 OF 003

SIV applicants, Tonneau said that IOM is already doing this
for Sweden, New Zealand, and Australia, albeit on a very
limited basis.

10. (SBU) Foley also explained that the U.S. does not
believe that now is the time to promote large-scale
repatriation of Iraqi refugees and described the GOI's recent
efforts as ill-advised and asked IOM to work closely with
MODM in order to strengthen its capacity to deal with ongoing
IDP returns. Foley also raised the issue of IOM's Iraq Chief
of Mission's recent unauthorized visit to Syria, which had
led to serious friction with the Syrian authorities and
suggested that IOM should reexamine its representation in
Iraq. Lupoli expressed his view that there had been an
unfortunate misunderstanding between IOM and the GOS, but
said that IOM does plan to send the new IOM DG, Bill Swing,
to Syria and Jordan and hopefully to Iraq in the near future,
something the previous DG had never done.


11. (SBU) Ambassador Foley held a separate meeting with
Andrew Harper on UNHCR's Iraq planning for 2009. Harper
reiterated UNHCR's plans to focus on building up its capacity
in Baghdad and plans to reinforce cooperation with partners
inside Iraq, including MODM and some 2,300 local NGOs that
have been referred to UNHCR by MFN-I and the Iraqi Security
Forces. He noted that the current U.S. Battalion has
provided contact information and comments for its 47 existing
local partners. He also repeated UNHCR's plans to open eight
return assistance centers. Foley and Harper also discussed
resettlement in FY2009 and Foley underscored the importance
that UNHCR boost its monthly referral numbers, particularly
in Syria, so that the U.S. can meet its goals for the coming
year. Foley also questioned UNHCR's figures for Iraqi
resettlement needs in the region, which are currently at
100,000 persons. Harper agreed that this figure is somewhat
out of date and explained that UNHCR would soon begin
reviewing its eligibility guidelines for Iraqis. (Note: In
a separate conversation with RMA Officer, Harper said the
figure would likely drop to 50,000-60,000 in need of
resettlement. End note.) Foley also encouraged Harper to
ensure the assistance component to refugees in host countries
is not overlooked in its 2009 Appeal. Harper indicated that
he believes UNHCR will be fine if the Iraq program is fully


12. (SBU) Ambassador Foley ended his meetings with a
briefing to donor missions. Participating Missions included:
Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Czech Republic, Germany, Australia,
the European Commission, Finland, Canada, Estonia, the
Netherlands, UK, Turkey, Japan, France, Egypt, and Kuwait.
Foley reviewed for the Missions his visit to Baghdad and
Jordan and U.S. plans for resettlement of Iraqis in FY2009.
The main message he communicated was that while the U.S.
agrees with the overall objective of the GOI to support the
return of refugees, the U.S. does not agree with the current
methodology used to return Iraqis nor with the timing. Foley
also noted that it would be difficult for the USG to continue
funding the humanitarian agencies' Iraq programs at the same
levels as in 2008 and he made a strong pitch for other donors
to step up to the plate in support of UNHCR's 2009 Iraq

Ambassador Foley has cleared this cable.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


ADC: Statement On The Assassination Of Shireen Abu Akleh

Early this morning in Jenin, Occupied Palestine, revered Palestinian voice Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist for Al Jazeera, was assassinated by Israeli Occupation Forces snipers...

Ukraine: UN Rights Office Probe Spotlights Harrowing Plight Of Civilians

Almost 76 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, countless civilians remain caught up in the horror and destruction of war, UN rights investigators said on Tuesday... More>>

UN: Michele Bachelet On Inter-religious Clashes In Ethiopia

I am deeply distressed by the recent violent clashes between Muslims and Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia in which at least 30 people were reportedly killed and more than 100 others injured... More>>

Access Now: Elon Musk’s Twitter Buyout Must Not Come At The Expense Of Human Rights

Following today’s announcement that Elon Musk will acquire complete ownership of Twitter in a cash sale of around 44 billion USD, pending shareholder approval, Access Now urges Twitter’s Board, employees, and shareholders... More>>

UN: Biodiversity And Ecosystem Protection Highlighted On Mother Earth Day

Marking International Mother Earth Day, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid urged on Friday, for collective action to safeguard biodiversity and protect ecosystems... More>>

Ukraine: Hundreds More Reach Safety After Fleeing Besieged Mariupol
In Ukraine, humanitarians said on Wednesday that hundreds of people have managed to reach safety after fleeing Mariupol, where there’s also been condemnation for the killing of Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius... More>>