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Cablegate: Refugees Programs in Ecuador Risk Benefitting the Farc

VZCZCXYZ0031
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DE RUEHQT #0883/01 2882044
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O R 152044Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY QUITO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0192
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0008
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0042
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0062
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0008
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ NOV LIMA 0068
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE 0001
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0001

S E C R E T QUITO 000883

SIPDIS
NOFORN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2029/10/14
TAGS: PREF PHUM KCRM KWMN PGOV SMIG SNAR SOCI EC CO
SUBJECT: Refugees Programs in Ecuador Risk Benefitting the FARC

REF: TD-314/054074-09; TD-314/062859-09; QUI...


id: 229886
date: 10/15/2009 20:44
refid: 09QUITO883
origin: Embassy Quito
classification: SECRET//NOFORN
destination: 08STATE20628|09QUITO609
header:
VZCZCXYZ0031
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHQT #0883/01 2882044
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O R 152044Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY QUITO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0192
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0008
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0042
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0062
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0008
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ NOV LIMA 0068
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE 0001
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0001


----------------- header ends ----------------

S E C R E T QUITO 000883

SIPDIS
NOFORN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2029/10/14
TAGS: PREF PHUM KCRM KWMN PGOV SMIG SNAR SOCI EC CO
SUBJECT: Refugees Programs in Ecuador Risk Benefitting the FARC

REF: TD-314/054074-09; TD-314/062859-09; QUITO 609; 08 STATE 020628

CLASSIFIED BY: Heather Hodges, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (C), (D)

1. (S/NF) This is an action request. See para. 9.

2. (S/NF) Summary and Comment: Embassy Quito and the Regional
Refugee Coordinator (RefCoord) request guidance on how to respond
to information that suspected FARC members have manipulated
Ecuador's Enhanced Registration Program implemented by the MFA
Directorate General for Refugees and the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) to gain refugee status in the country. We also
request Department guidance on how to address potential cases of
unintended diversion of humanitarian assistance to
terrorist/criminal groups to comply with risk-based assessment
requirements. GOE and UNHCR officials assert that security
measures are in place to avoid registration of FARC members and
that protection of, and data collection on, refugees is important.
However, it is unclear whether the GOE is enforcing its own rules
and what action might be taken against known FARC members. Post
and RefCoord request that Washington provide releasable information
that could be shared with GOE and UNHCR officials. End Summary and
Comment.

Manipulation of Refugee Registration and Assistance

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

3. (S/NF) According to GRPO reports (Refs A and B), a Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) collaborator working under the
Enhanced Registration Program (ERP) has facilitated recommendations
for refugee status for an unspecified number of suspected FARC
members. The same FARC collaborator has also reportedly diverted
humanitarian assistance from UNHCR and other relief agencies to the
FARC in Sucumbios Province, and traveled to Colombia with an
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) medical training
mission during which time she acted on her own to provide medical
assistance to the FARC. The reports also assert that the Ecuadoran
military had passed the names of three known or suspected FARC
members seeking asylum under the ERP to the MFA and UNHCR, but that
both agencies did not take action and the GOE issued refugee status
to these individuals.


4. (S/NF) Post and RefCoord have not confirmed if these individuals
were provided refugee status or asylum seeker status. Under the
Enhanced Registration process (see description in para. 10), any
asylum seeker (those who seek, but have not yet been granted,
refugee status) who is suspected of having links to illegal armed
groups is supposed to be given an asylum seeker card -- not a
refugee card -- and referred to the regular asylum process in Quito
for further scrutiny. UNHCR has reported that approximately 4
percent of asylum seekers have been referred to the regular asylum
process for an exclusion analysis, including an unspecified number
of cases with suspected links to an illegal armed group. Other
exclusions include those determined not to be staying in the
country or economic migrants. These referred cases are still
pending and may take months to resolve, assuming the GOE truly has
will and intent to confront this issue.

GOE Responds to Security Concerns
---------------------------------

5. (C) MFA Under Secretary of Multilateral Affairs Carlos Jativa
told RefCoord on August 31 that security checks are a part of the
ERP process and that he does not believe members of illegal armed
groups would willingly expose themselves to government entities,
noting that a refugee visa alone is not valid permission to enter
or exit the country. He added that an inter-agency taskforce
(including GOE security forces) reviewed this concern when the ERP

was designed and signed off on the process.

6. (C) Under Secretary of National Defense Jorge Pena told Embassy
officers on September 3 that collecting data on Colombian refugees
through the registration process, including potential FARC members
or sympathizers, was better than not knowing who was present in
Ecuador. However, he was unable to articulate how the GOE would
share this data with its own security forces.

UNHCR's Response to Security Concerns

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

7. (C) UNHCR Deputy Representative Luis Varese explained to
RefCoord and the PRM Program Officer in May that the ERP includes
an exclusion clause for suspected members of illegal armed groups
and police are involved in the process. A representative from the
Ministry of Government and Police serves as a voting member on the
GOE Eligibility Committee. Additionally, the last step in the
process is the Migration Police registering those granted refugee
status.

8. (C) Post and RefCoord plan to engage with the GOE to urge
stronger coordination between the MFA Directorate General for
Refugees and security forces. Releasable information (as requested
in para. 9) would allow us to share our specific concerns with the
GOE, UNHCR, and ICRC, and to request investigations of the alleged
incidents and appropriate action if confirmed.

Action Request

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

9. (S/NF) Action Request: Post and RefCoord request Department
guidance on how to respond to information (Refs A and B) that
suspected members of the FARC have manipulated Ecuador's Enhanced
Registration Program to gain refugee status, and on providing
humanitarian assistance in USG-supported programs in which there
exist the potential of unintended diversion of assistance to
benefit terrorist/ criminal groups. While the steps planned by
Post and RefCoord are aimed to address specific instances of
possible diversion of humanitarian assistance and to strengthen
processes to prevent such actions, Post recognizes there may exist
continuing and systemic risk of such diversion and would like the
Department's guidance on whether the overall benefit of providing
USG support to these humanitarian assistance programs outweighs the
risk of inadvertently providing benefit to terrorists or their
supporters. In addition, Post and RefCoord request that Washington
provide releasable information based on Refs A and B (and any
sources, if appropriate) that we can share with the GOE and UNHCR.

Background on Enhanced Registration Program

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

10. (SBU) The MFA Directorate General for Refugees and UNHCR
launched the ERP in March 2009 to provide a more efficient refugee
registration process for the estimated 135,000 Colombians in need
of international protection in Ecuador. As of August, some 13,000
Colombians have received refugee status under the program. The
RefCoord and PRM Program Officer raised the possibility of the FARC

manipulating the ERP to gain refugee status in May and August with
the MFA and UNHCR. In both instances, the MFA and UNHCR responded
that the Enhanced Registration and regular asylum processes include
an exclusion clause for members of illegal armed groups and that
the interviewers and the GOE Eligibility Commission scrupulously
implement the standard operating procedure manual.

11. (SBU) According to UNHCR statistics, 17,607 new asylum seekers
applied in 2008, of which 85 percent were Colombian. Refugee
status was provided for 4,331 Colombians, was rejected for 3,824,
and otherwise closed for 220. From March 23 to October 3, 2009,
under the Enhanced Registration Program, the GOE recognized 16,320
Colombian refugees and referred 377 cases to the regular asylum
process for further analysis. Nearly 90 percent of the recognized
refugees were women and minors below the age of 18. UNHCR Deputy
Representative Varese told RefCoord that the majority of the cases
referred to Quito were due to suspected links to an illegal armed
group. These cases were still pending and may take months to
resolve. Since 2004, approximately 470 cases have been excluded
for links to illegal armed groups out of some 55,000 asylum claims.

12. (U) Under the ERP, an asylum seeker suspected of having links
to any illegal armed group is referred to the regular asylum
process in Quito, where a Refugee Officer in the MFA investigates
and passes the case to the GOE Eligibility Committee. The GOE
Eligibility Committee is made up of two representatives from the
MFA with one vote each, one representative from the Ministry of
Government and Police with one vote, one representative from UNHCR
with a voice but no vote, and other observers from civil society
without voice or vote. If the GOE Eligibility Committee determines
the asylum seeker does not qualify for refugee status under the
exclusion clause, the asylum seeker has 30 days to appeal the
decision directly to the MFA. If the appeal is not successful, the
asylum seeker will be given 60 days to regularize his/her status
under the immigration law or to leave the country voluntarily. Any
rejected asylum seeker found in the country with an irregular
migration status may be detained and referred to deportation
proceedings conducted by Provincial Police and Migration Police.

13. (U) Refugee status is valid for a renewable one-year period.
(A proposed new draft of the presidential refugee decree recommends
increasing the validity to three years.) A refugee must petition
for renewal in person at an MFA office before the status expires.
At the time of renewal, the MFA Directorate General for Refugees
(DGR) updates the refugee's bio-data and issues a new card. If a
refugee does not renew the status before the expiration date, DGR
will consider the cause of delay. Refugees cannot leave the
country without DGR's authorization, which migration officials
verify upon exit and re-entry whether overland or by air. To
obtain authorization, refugees must present requests justifying
their reasons for travel and the time they will spend outside the
country. If DGR approves, the MFA's Travel Documents Directorate
issues international travel documents valid for one year.

14. (U) This cable was drafted in collaboration with RefCoord and
cleared by Embassy Bogota.
HODGES

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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