Cablegate: Resettlement Set to Grow (Cautiously) From S.Africa

DE RUEHSA #1959/01 2711031
R 281031Z SEP 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

B. 08 PRETORIA 2379


1. (SBU) On a September 7-10 visit, U.S. Regional Refugee
Coordinator met with key counterparts in an ongoing effort to
expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) in
Southern Africa. The program vets African applicants (of
diverse nationalities, but from South Africa likely mainly
Somali) for resettlement to the U.S. USRAP anticipates
receiving 1,800 resettlement referrals from UNHCR regionally
in 2009 and up to 2,000 referrals in 2010. The majority of
the latter are expected to be from South Africa, primarily
victims of xenophobic violence unable to integrate into local
communities. USRAP expansion is welcomed by the SAG as a
concrete demonstration of international "burden sharing,"
helping to preserve the SAG's progressive asylum regime at a
time of increasing regional restrictions on refugees. Given
the charged atmosphere over immigration issues, both the USG
and SAG will take pains to avoid drawing media attention to
this initiative. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -
Background - 2008: USRAP Growth Meets SAG Need
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (SBU) In November 2008, officers from the U.S. Refugee
Admissions Program (USRAP) visited South Africa to assess
prospects for expanding the program to assist vulnerable
foreign nationals. With its strong economy and
post-apartheid permissive immigration policy, South Africa
has drawn an estimated three to five million migrants, some
of whom are refugees. (Note: this estimate is outdated and
based on hearsay, but no official count exists.) While
Zimbabweans are the largest group of non-nationals (and most
of them considered economic migrants), others include
Mozambicans, Malawians, Somalis, Ethiopians, Congolese,
Burundians, and nearly every other African nationality. In
mid-2008, when foreign migrants came under brutal attack by
xenophobic mobs, the SAG was slow to respond and has since
taken little action to prevent repeated violence (ref A).
While nearly all foreigners displaced in the attacks have
successfully reintegrated to their former homes or new
communities, U.S. resettlement may be deemed the only durable
solution for some of the asylum-seeking and refugee
population in South Africa who are unable to reintegrate.

3. (SBU) The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) welcomed the
idea of USRAP expansion as a means to relieve migration
pressures. Broaching the notion of refugee resettlement with
care to avoid offending SAG sensibilities as the haven
"rainbow nation," we were surprised by the enthusiastic
response of DHA's Deputy Director General Jackie McKay. Our
timing was ideal, he said, as his Minister had recently asked
him to reach out to refugee resettlement countries as "burden
sharing" partners in absorbing asylum seekers. South Africa
was "buckling" under the weight of the influx of foreigners,
and their growing load on public services. McKay warned that
post-xenophobia critiques by media, and the SAG's inability
to find common ground with groups like the one at Akasia,
which refused to vacate shelters and return to their
communities (ref B), were causing some SAG leaders to lose
patience with liberal policies and to advocate for a more
restrictive regime. In this climate, the SAG saw refugee
resettlement as a means to ease social and political
pressures. With caveats that USRAP could not guarantee
Qpressures. With caveats that USRAP could not guarantee
transfer of any particular group or individual (nor did we
wish to incent troublemakers or encourage smuggling), we
agreed with DHA to work jointly on a limited and targeted
expansion of USRAP in South Africa.

4. (SBU) The 2008 visit also included meetings with migrant
advocacy groups to explain the limited scope and targeted
nature of USRAP in South Africa. Initially concerned that
USRAP would enable the SAG to shirk its protection duties to
refugees and migrants, in effect rewarding it for failure,
the Consortium for Migrants in South Africa (CORMSA) and Wits
University's Forced Migration Studies Project (FSMP) were
cautiously accepting of USRAP plans to consider only small
numbers of the most vulnerable refugees referred by UNHCR
(e.g. Somali traders, single mothers, and orphan children)
unable to integrate into local communities. Recognizing that
South Africa remains a safe haven and land of opportunity for
the overwhelming majority of African migrants, we argued that

PRETORIA 00001959 002 OF 003

small-scale resettlement would not eliminate the SAG's
responsibilities to refugees -- and would in fact help afford
the SAG needed space to develop protection and integration
programs for those remaining in South Africa.

UNHCR Identifying Candidates

5. (SBU) The U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has
in the past submitted relatively few resettlement referrals
from South Africa, but at USRAP urging it is now ramping up
its capacity to meet higher targets. From January through
August last year, UNHCR referred only 22 family cases (15
Somali, six Congolese, and one Rwandan), totaling 78 persons,
to the U.S. from South Africa. For full-year 2008 the number
was 94 cases, totaling 315 persons. By contrast, from
January through August this year UNHCR had referred 751
persons. Regional Resettlement Officer Shant
Dermegerditchian was optimistic that UNHCR would meet USRAP
regional targets of 1,800 individuals this calendar year and
submit referrals of up to 2,000 persons in 2010. The 1,800
Southern Africa referrals UNHCR plans to submit to USRAP in
2009 dwarf the 370 referrals it expects to make to Australia,
the 150 to Canada, and the 50-75 to the Netherlands and the
Nordic countries.

6. (SBU) UNHCR estimates of refugees needing resettlement
from Southern Africa indicate that South Africa is
potentially the region's main source of referrals:

--------------------------------------------- -
Estimated Resettlement Need - Southern Africa
--------------------------------------------- -
Number Country
--------------------------------------------- -
2,000 South Africa
1,200 Zambia
750 Zimbabwe
400 Malawi
300 Mozambique
200 Namibia
140 Botswana
100 Angola
--------------------------------------------- -
5,090 Regional total
--------------------------------------------- -
Source: UNHCR Pretoria

(Note: Nearly every one of these persons, including those in
Zimbabwe, is a non-national of the source country cited.
These are applicants who have already crossed at least one
border out of their home countries. End Note.)

7. (SBU) UNHCR is currently conducting a nation-wide
Protection Needs Assessment which will yield policy insights
and also identify refugees for whom resettlement is deemed
the only durable solution. The Assessment's initial output
will be an in-depth report profiling the problems encountered
by refugees which inhibit their full integration in South
Africa -- from xenophobic violence and common crime to
difficulties renewing documentation and accessing public
services, particularly schools for children. From South
Africa's population of 60,000 full-fledged refugees, over
200,000 asylum seekers, and countless undocumented migrants,
UNHCR estimates the Assessment will interview 3,000 families
(or roughly 7,500 individuals), of which perhaps 2,500
persons (30-35 percent) are projected to be eligible for
resettlement consideration. UNHCR has already referred about
60 of the most urgent protection cases identified during its
Assessment to resettlement countries, including to the USRAP.

8. (SBU) NGOs like Mapendo and the International Catholic
Migration Commission (ICMC) have received funding from UNHCR
(via USRAP) to expand UNHCR's resettlement capacity in the
region. In South Africa, specifically, Mapendo has seconded
Qregion. In South Africa, specifically, Mapendo has seconded
one staff member who is already operating in UNHCR's Pretoria
office and expects another seconded staffer to arrive by
early October. UNHCR's Dermegerditchian confirmed that four
ICMC staffers were also embedded in UNHCR regional offices
(two in Pretoria, and one each in Zambia and Zimbabwe)
assisting UNHCR's resettlement operations. Finally, we are
encouraging UNHCR and DHA to work more closely to link DHA
data bases of asylum seekers to UNHCR's resettlement program
to identify vulnerable refugees.


PRETORIA 00001959 003 OF 003

IOM Will Submit Costing

9. (SBU) U.S. Refugee Coordinator (RefCoord) also met with
the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which
provides operational support to UNHCR / USRAP in Southern
Africa in the forms of medical screenings and transportation
to the U.S. Noting that UNHCR has launched a public-private
Protection Working Group (PWG) in (belated) response to
2008's xenophobic attacks, IOM agreed with us that the SAG
should take a leadership role in any such fora. IOM told us
privately that UNHCR had waited until a late stage to include
Home Affairs, which had then been "taken aback" by SAG
departments being tasked without participating in planning.
A do-over meeting to fill in this groundwork was scheduled
for September 17. Resettlement officer Sheikha Ali invited
us to leverage the PWG and IOM's upcoming meetings with DHA
to build our own bridges within Home Affairs.

DHA Still on Board

10. (SBU) Building on past meetings in November 2008 and
April 2009, poloff and RefCoord met again with Home Affairs
to ensure transparency with the SAG, and to seek further
avenues for collaboration. Ms. Nompumelelo Tyobeka, Deputy
Director of Refugee Affairs, responded positively to UNHCR
progress in building a resettlement caseload. (Note: she
asked pointedly about the Akasia group -- clearly a thorn in
the SAG's side.) She welcomed the idea, floated with McKay
in April, of a periodic dialogue between DHA and key
international missions (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia) to be
arranged by UNHCR but led by DHA. Tyobeka's boss, Mrs.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane-Tshehla, would likely represent DHA in
talks about DHA programs (e.g. "turnaround" project),
policies (e.g. permits for Zimbabweans), and needs (e.g. for
support to counter xenophobia). In addition to significant
funding to UNHCR and IOM, RefCoord suggested State/PRM might
offer expert exchanges on issues such as migration and
integration, including via possible nominations to the
International Visitors Program. Tyobeka encouraged a meeting
between Ambassador Gips and DHA Deputy Minister Malusi
Gigaba, recently assigned the portfolio of refugees and
migrants. Lastly, Tyobeka sought assurance that USRAP was
not to be promoted in local media, lest it be easily

Prospects for Wider Engagement

11. (SBU) COMMENT: Post hopes to build on our fledgling
working-level collaboration with Home Affairs to forge senior
linkages at the Minister-Ambassador level. Our core messages
on resettlement will be that USRAP is expanding on a limited
basis and will target the most vulnerable; that this is a way
to ease xenophobic pressures and preserve the SAG's
progressive stance on immigration (when UNHCR tells us other
African countries are becoming more restrictive); and that
while we will maintain coordination with DHA and NGOs, we
wish to keep resettlement programs under the media radar lest
they be twisted for political purposes. (The furor over
Canada's granting of asylum to a white South African is
evidence of how sensitive these issues can be.) With
RefCoord building USRAP, and poloff joining in DHA-led
dialogues, we should soon have a sound foundation for an
Ambassadorial call on Minister Dlamini-Zuma or her deputy.
With the new administrations of Presidents Zuma and Obama
yielding dividends of greater dialogue, Home Affairs is one
Qyielding dividends of greater dialogue, Home Affairs is one
potential target for building new bridges. End Comment.


© Scoop Media

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