Cablegate: Embassy Cairo


DE RUEHEG #1993/01 2931356
P 201356Z OCT 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 001993



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/18/2019

UNHCR CAIRO DISCUSSES REFUGEE CHALLENGES REF: CAIRO 1852 Classified By: Minister Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C) Key Points: -- UNHCR Cairo held an October 12 meeting to brief donor country representatives and NGO partners on refugee issues. UNHCR leadership in Cairo and Geneva are concerned with the increase in shootings of African migrants on the Egypt-Israel border. They expect the shootings to continue because of the deteriorating human rights and security situations in the Horn of Africa, the lack of economic opportunities for refugees in Egypt, and the increased focus on security in the Sinai. -- The increase in Sudanese gang violence, racial and sexual harassment, and sexual and gender-based violence are among the other concerns that UNHCR Cairo is trying to address. -- UNHCR officials made an appeal to the NGOs to help "recruit children" to apply for the UNHCR education grants. Two weeks into the school year only 45 percent of refugee children have applied for the grants. -- UNHCR says it will meet its goals to resettle 900 refugees in 2009, most of whom are survivors of violence or have dire medical needs. UNHCR Cairo's voluntary repatriation efforts to both Iraq and South Sudan have slowed due to security concerns in the home countries.

2.(C) Comment: Neither African nor Iraqi refugees or migrants see Egypt as a desirable place to live. Africans, in particular, face racial discrimination, little chance for resettlement, and few job opportunities except for women to work as domestic servants. UNHCR staff in Egypt do not view resettlement as a good option because, like the Government of Egypt (GoE), they fear resettlement could attract African refugees to Egypt. This leaves repatriation as the only durable solution for most refugees.

3.(U) UNHCR's Cairo office hosted a meeting on October 12 to brief the donor community and NGO partners on the status of its refugee efforts in Egypt. UNHCR staff addressed the key issues of protection, durable solutions, activities/programming, and budget. --------------------------------------- Border Shootings and Irregular Movement ---------------------------------------

4.(C) Saad Al Attar, Country Director for UNHCR Cairo said UNHCR's chief concern is the protection of refugees. He said the main issue is the continued shootings of migrants and refugees on the Egypt-Israel border (reftel). UNHCR expects this trend to continue due to the deteriorating human rights and security situations in Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia, the lack of economic opportunities for refugees in Egypt, and the increased focus on security in the Sinai. Al Attar said the 30,000-40,000 African migrants working in Israel are a draw for refugees in Cairo looking for a better life. He said UNHCR is not given access to refugees or migrants shot or arrested in the Sinai as it is banned from the peninsula. Privately, Al Attar said he and UNHCR's Country Director for Israel William Tall plan to meet in Amman, Jordan on October 28-29 to develop "strategic options" to deal with the problem before UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Erika Feller comes to Egypt in December to discuss this issue with Egyptian officials. Al Attar is also concerned with the increase in the "irregular movement" of migrants. According to UNHCR, approximately 2,000 migrants, primarily from Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia enter Egypt every month. He said most do not register with UNHCR, but instead try to make their way to Europe or Israel. ------------------------- Local Protection Problems -------------------------

5.(C) UNHCR and NGO staff noted an increase in Sudanese gang violence in Cairo over the past three months is making life more dangerous for the refugee community. UNHCR also noted a growth in incidents of racial and sexual harassment of refugees. Al Attar believes the violence and harassment are related to "harder economic conditions" brought on by the return of Egyptian workers from the Gulf who have moved into the informal labor market to compete with the refugee population. UNHCR's efforts to provide a shelter to protect 81 unaccompanied minors hit a snag when their local partner was unable to gain authorization from the GoE for its operations. Al Attar said UNHCR is looking to find a new partner for the project and is working to find short-term foster care for the minors. UNHCR is also working with women's groups on a plan to raise awareness and address problems of sexual and gender-based violence against refugee women as well as combating FGM amongst Somali women. ------------------------------------------- Increase in Somali and Eritrean Registrants -------------------------------------------

6.(SBU) Each month 200-250 "new refugees" register with UNHCR Cairo. This year, 52% of new registrants are Sudanese, 26% Somali, 13% Iraqi, and 9% from other areas in Africa, primarily Eritrea. These figures represent a substantial increase in the percentage of Somali and Eritrean refugees in the country. Egypt recently implemented a more stringent visa regime to restrict new refugee arrivals from Somalia, but this could serve to increase the amount of Somalis involved in irregular movement. According to Al Attar, the "new Iraqi refugees" are not new arrivals, but are Iraqis who have been living in Egypt since 2006, but have depleted their savings. (Note: Since 2008, approximately 2,600 Iraqi refugees have closed their files with UNHCR with a view to depart from Egypt. We estimate that the number of Iraqi living in Egypt to be 20,000 of which 9,000 are registered as refugees. End Note). ---------------------------- Educational Grants Unclaimed ----------------------------

7.(SBU) Al Attar made an appeal to the NGOs to help "recruit children" to apply for the UNHCR education grants. UNHCR has education grants for all of the 10,000 registered children, but two weeks into the school year only 45 percent have applied for the grants. UNHCR provides grants of 2000 Egyptian pounds (USD 360) for students in private schools, 1300 pounds (USD 270) for refugee schools, and 1000 pounds (USD 180) for public schools. These grants cover approximately 80 percent of the costs incurred by refugee children for their education. Sudanese refugees are the only children that are permitted to attend Egyptian public schools, although the majority of Sudanese children attend refugee schools run by churches and other NGOs. Iraqi children attend private schools. ------------------------------------- Resettlement and Repatriation Efforts -------------------------------------

8.(SBU) UNHCR Cairo said it is on target to resettle its goal of 900 refugees this year. As of the end of October it will have resettled 730 individuals. Based on UNHCR Cairo criteria, those that qualify for resettlement are limited to a) survivors of violence or torture, b) women at risk, and c) those with medical needs not available or affordable in Egypt. UNHCR Cairo's voluntary repatriation efforts to both Iraq and South Sudan have slowed due to security concerns in the home countries. To date, 522 South Sudanese and 584 Iraqis have returned to their home countries. However, Embassy contacts report that many South Sudanese have returned to Cairo because of the lack of security and jobs in South Sudan. -------------------------------------- UNHCR Cairo Proposes a Budget Increase --------------------------------------

9.(C) UNHCR Cairo's proposed budget for 2010 is USD 10.3 million, up 25% from the 8.3 million it received both in '08 and '09. However, Al Attar noted this amount, if approved, still does not compensate for the approximate 40% increase in cost of living in Egypt over the same period. Scobey

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