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Cablegate: Refugees in Namibia: Impending Food Crisis Amidst Durable

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHWD #0326/01 2531453
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101453Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0750
INFO RUEHWD/SADCC COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS WINDHOEK 000326

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

For State AF/S PGWYN, PRM MMCKELVEY, MLANGE
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV PREL PHUM WA
SUBJECT: REFUGEES IN NAMIBIA: IMPENDING FOOD CRISIS AMIDST DURABLE
SOLUTIONS

REF: WINDHOEK 00285


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Summary
-------

1. (U) The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and
the GRN's Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration (MHAI) made a
joint presentation to representatives from the diplomatic community
in Windhoek on September 4 concerning durable solutions for the
integration or resettlement of 8000 refugees residing in Namibia.
At the meeting, a representative from the World Food Program (WFP)
also outlined starkly an emerging food security crisis at the Osire
Refugee Camp and pled for international donor support. The group of
41 Congolese refugees, who voluntarily left the Osire Refugee Camp
in July, remain at the Namibia-Botswana border (reftel). They are
now under the care of the Government of Botswana while their status
and request for entrance into Botswana is being reviewed.

--------------------------
Durable Solutions Proposed
--------------------------

2. (U) On September 4, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of
Home Affairs and Immigration (MHAI), Samuel Goagoseb, and the
country representative for UNHCR, Joyce Mends-Cole, made a joint
presentation outlining durable solutions, which had been agreed upon
in principle by UNHCR and the GRN, for the integration or
resettlement of the Osire refugees. The three primary avenues are:
(1) voluntary repatriation and reintegration of refugees to their
countries of origin, (2) local integration into the current country
of residence, and (3) resettlement in third countries.

3. (U) With the caveat that no one may be "forced" to repatriate to
his/her country of origin, Mends-Cole stated that the first two
options would be emphasized in Namibia, as third-country
resettlement is a viable option for only a small minority of the
refugees. She announced the gradual implementation of cessation
clauses for Angolan refugees in 2010, due to improved stability and
conditions in Angola. While UNHCR has recently facilitated the
return of some Angolans, the majority of refugees resident in
Namibia - about 5000 of the total 8000 - are still Angolan
(reftel).

4. (U) Both presenters emphasized the importance of a comprehensive
policy approach for both local integration and repatriation
strategies, which would address all aspects of the process - legal,
economic, and socio-cultural. Legal considerations for repatriates
would include documentation for those who no longer have
identification from their country of origin and for those who may
have been born into refugee status. For those integrating locally,
legal provision would mean the expansion of rights, resident status,
and freedom of movement. Economic provisions for both groups would
facilitate and require increased self-reliance on the part of
refugees, such as through job training or credentialing those with
professional skills. Socio-cultural considerations relate to
reasonable freedom from discrimination or exploitation, and
opportunities to contribute to national development, as former
refugees seek to integrate with society.

5. (U) Mends-Cole laid out a "target" timeline in which a
comprehensive local integration policy will be drafted for review by
December 2009 and formally presented to Parliament in April 2010.
The Permanent Secretary qualified this statement, noting that only
policy "recommendations" could be drafted and thus the process may
take longer. He added that the MHAI has begun issuing "non-citizen"
birth certificates as documentation for refugees.

----------------------------------
Food Security Crisis at Osire Camp
----------------------------------

6. (U) Also at the September 4 meeting, WFP representative Baton
Osmani briefed the diplomatic community on the "continued shrinking
of available resources across the board" and the allocation of those
resources to crises or areas that have garnered more international
attention. Osmani warned of an emerging food crisis at the Osire
Refugee Camp. He noted that the WFP had been supplying full rations
to the refugees at Osire since 2000 in partnership with the GRN, at
an on-going cost of approximately USD 80,000 per month. As the WFP
had received no new donations since 2008 and had "failed" to acquire
new donor commitments, Osmani projected a shortfall of about 164
metric tons of food in the last quarter of 2009 (costing roughly USD
120,000).

7. (U) In an effort to prevent fraud or abuse of the distribution
system, WFP introduced I.D. and ration cards in 2008 and also began
reducing or eliminating rations for camp inhabitants who were

employed and demonstrably able to provide for their own needs. WFP
has also cut sugar and oil rations by 50 percent in an effort to
stretch resources. While full food rations have been authorized for
September 2009, they will have to be cut by half in October in order
to maintain some level of supply for the remainder of the year.

8. (U) In a subsequent discussion on September 8, Osmani indicated
that he is hoping to receive new pledges of support from the
international community as a result of his presentation. He has
also made direct appeals to the highest levels of the GRN for
assistance. If the GRN makes a new commitment, the WFP will

publicize the donation and press the international community
further, "possibly" followed by direct appeals to individual
governments who have a stated or historical interest in the Osire
refugees.

-------------------------------
The Congolese 41 Still in Limbo
-------------------------------
9. (U) Representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
inquired into the status of 41 Congolese refugees who voluntarily
left the Osire Refugee Camp on July 8. Both the Permanent Secretary
and UNHCR representative made it clear that the claims by the group
of death threats and maltreatment by the GRN were investigated and
determined to be unsubstantiated. Goagoseb reasserted the GRN's
position that these individuals had broken Namibian law and would
not be re-admitted to Namibia, even if they should desire to return.
Mends-Cole stated that UNHCR had provided food, water and other
supplies for the group as they initially camped at the border
between Namibia and Botswana, but she added that the Botswana
government had taken over this responsibility while it reviewed the
refugees' status and request for entrance into the country. The
refugees will remain where they are until Botswana makes a formal
ruling on their case.

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COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) It is unclear to what degree real progress on a
comprehensive local integration policy may be made in the coming
year. UNHCR emphasized its commitment to develop policy
recommendations for local integration as a viable and durable
solution, and also noted that there is a "green light" from the
President and a Cabinet mandate to do so. However, upcoming
presidential and parliamentary elections in November and Namibia's
continuing economic downturn may impede quick progress. On the
other hand, the food crisis at Osire may elicit a more immediate
response.

--------------
ACTION REQUEST
--------------

11. (U) Post would appreciate notification should the Department
decide to allocate funds to WFP specifically for the Osire Refugee
Camp.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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