Cablegate: Sitrep: Yemen's Most Vulnerable Refugees in Basateen And
DE RUEHYN #2116/01 3271446
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231446Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3266
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0297
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1068
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0467
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 0270
UNCLAS SANAA 002116
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP Andrew MacDonald AND PRM Janet Deutsch
AMMAN FOR REFCOORD Rusty Ingraham
ADDIS ABABA FOR REFCOORD Inga Heemink
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PREL PGOV UNHCR YM
SUBJECT: SITREP: YEMEN'S MOST VULNERABLE REFUGEES IN BASATEEN AND
REF: A) SANAA 1633, B) SANAA 597
1. (U) Summary: Although still a minority segment of Yemen's vast
and growing refugee population, the 15,000 residents of the
UNHCR-run refugee camp in Kharaz and the 40,000 plus residents of
the urban slum of Basateen are among the most vulnerable. During a
November 16 - 18 visit to these areas, CONOFF noted diminished
levels of violence and conflict, and improvements in water
distribution. Nonetheless, significant health and social problems
remain. UNHCR and NGOs in the area struggle to provide for a
rapidly and increasingly transient population in spite of dwindling
funding and an often distracted international community. End
Refugee Travel Routes and Demographics
2. (SBU) The majority of this year's arrivals have been Ethiopians -
a marked shift considering 95 percent of Yemen's estimated 600,000
refugees are Somali. Moreover, NGO workers in Kharaz and Basateen
noted increasing numbers of unaccompanied females and minors to the
camps. Because these cases are more vulnerable, they require
increased resources from aid workers (REF A).
3. (SBU) The vast majority of refugees arriving in Yemen depart from
Bossaso, Somalia and Obock, Djibouti. Whether crossing the Red Sea
from Obock or the Gulf of Aden from Bossaso, both ports represent a
mid-way point in larger smuggling routes from Mogadishu and various
parts of Ethiopia. These routes continue north to the Saudi border
as most arrivals are seeking work in the wealthier Gulf States or
transit to Europe. Those without sufficient funds or connections to
complete the voyage often end up stuck in Yemen. While many migrants
are seeking refuge in Yemen, a recent UNHCR-IOM study indicates that
the vast majority have (or had) the intention to leave the country.
Kharaz and Basateen: Transitory Areas for Yemen's Most Vulnerable
4. (SBU) With approximately 56,000 people, the Basateen neighborhood
(40,000) in Aden governorate and Kharaz camp (15,000) in Lahj
governorate are home to no more than 10 percent of Yemen's refugee
population. However, the residents of these areas are among the most
vulnerable refugees in Yemen. Those who choose to come to these
areas often lack the connections that allow others to settle in
urban centers of Ta'iz, Sana'a and Aden. Basateen and Kharaz
therefore are transition points for most. NGOs provide social,
medical, legal and educational services that assist refugees in
getting on their feet and adjusted to life in Yemen. New arrivals
often are escaping extreme trauma, and are wholly unfit to cope with
a new language, culture and environment. These areas provide the
necessary services to acclimate them.
Who's Who in Refugee Assistance
5. (U) Below is a brief overview of the main services of the various
implementing partners of UNHCR in Kharaz and Basateen.
- Danish Refugee Council (DRC): provides registration services.
- Save the Children: implements educational programming.
- The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA): builds
community and offers social services.
- Christian Action Research and Education (CARE): organizes
vocational training, conflict-resolution programs, and housing.
- World Food Program (WFP): feeds refugees.
- Organizzazione Umanitaria per L'Emergenza (INTERSOS): protects
refugees through counseling services, vocational training, and
- Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW): provides medical
- Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS): transports and equips
new arrivals from the welcome centers in Mayfa and Ahwar.
Basateen: Despite Improvements, Still a Slum
6. (SBU) Located only six miles from downtown Aden, Basateen hosts a
population that is almost exclusively Somali. Lacking any of the
traditional Yemeni architecture, most residents live in small tin
huts on a dusty plain. Since the Embassy's last visit (REF B), there
have been significant improvements in water distribution and
registration, and reduction in levels of violence. Concerns still
remain, however, regarding education and healthcare.
7. (SBU) Residents, NGO workers, and UNHCR agree that water
distribution in Basateen has improved with more regular deliveries.
The neighborhood still lacks its own water supply and depends on
UNHCR. Social programming from various NGOs and increasing
cooperation from the local police appear to have curbed sexual and
gender-based violence (SGBV), according to UNHCR. Yet according to
several NGO workers, the neighborhood is still "not safe at night,"
especially for women. One American female worker at ADRA now fears
walking around in daylight without a full face covering (niqab) due
to several incidents of harassment and stone-throwing.
8. (U) The new ROYG-operated registration center in Basateen opened
in July and remains bustling with new arrivals. The center is open
five days a week and processes up to 150 new arrivals each day. Upon
registration, refugees are granted official documentation and their
identities are recorded. The ROYG then issues them official
identification cards and advises them of their rights in Yemen.
Counselors from Danish Relief Council and interpreters are on hand
to help with the interviews and identify the more vulnerable cases
involving abuse, trauma, unaccompanied minors or people with
disabilities. Since July, approximately 6,100 refugees have
registered in Basateen. Note: While this is a small number in terms
of percentage, the center remains extremely busy and these numbers
will likely rise. End Note.
9. (SBU) Access to quality health care and education now ranks among
the primary concerns facing residents of Basateen. According to one
doctor, malnutrition and water-borne diseases are the most common
problems. While UNHCR provides free medicine, medical officials
lament the constant lack of anything other than the basic medicines.
Some residents are so desperate for treatment and food that a black
market has developed for pregnant women's urine, which allows buyers
access to free pre-natal care. (Note: Doctors are now trying to curb
this practice through the use of sonogram testing. End Note.) In
terms of education, the primary school in Basateen is extremely
overcrowded with classes nearing one hundred students. The principal
also noted a lack of qualified teachers. Education is especially
important among refugees in order to promote their understanding of
social issues. (Note: As many Somalis have come from a severely
socially disruptive setting, they often lack a basic understanding
of how to cope with day-to-day problems. End Note.)
Kharaz: Violence Down, Cooperation on the Rise
10. (SBU) In a one-day visit to the UNHCR-operated Kharaz refugee
camp, CONOFF noted significant improvements in cooperation with
local villages, access to water, and cooperation with police, and
diminished levels of violence. While major social issues remain to
be addressed, the various programs in the camp appear to be having a
positive impact. Embassy officials were also duly impressed with the
general cleanliness of the camp.
11. (SBU) As a result of perceived inequity over access to water and
other services, Embassy officials had previously noted rising
tensions and sporadic violence between the Kharaz residents and
surrounding villagers (REF B). Since then, two new wells have been
built that provide adequate water to the camp and surrounding
villages. NGOs have also increased programs in conflict mitigation
to include the local villagers as well as to allow them access to
health care facilities. All of these efforts have calmed many of the
tensions between the communities. However, the villages surrounding
Kharaz remain severely isolated and lack basic government services.
To gain government attention, they have frequently resolved to
carjacking UN or NGO vehicles. Four of these incidents occurred in
the last year. Increasingly, the adjacent villages are less inclined
to resort to such violence, but the threat remains from more distant
villages that have not had the same access to the camp's resources.
Overall, however, the situation remains vastly improved.
12. (SBU) According to UNHCR camp director, Cleofas Mabenge,
relations with the local police force have also improved. He notes a
reduction in incidents of bribery and arbitrary arrests, as well as
increased prosecution of crimes. Several workers in the camp also
mentioned a significant decline in SGBV.
13. (SBU) Health-care workers in the camp note that the most common
ailments facing residents are gastrointestinal and respiratory in
nature. Despite widespread myths to the contrary among the Yemeni
populace, disease rates in the camp are the same or lower than
comparable rates in the rest of Yemen. The medical facilities,
however, only possess oral contraceptives and no condoms. CONOFF
noted a disturbing rise in documented, sexually-transmitted diseases
on one hospital poster.
14. (SBU) Like many refugee camps, Kharaz residents suffer from the
tedium of life on the margins of society. Major social woes include
lack of marriage and divorce services for the increasing number of
abandoned women, and the lack of job opportunities. While vocational
programs appear to have had moderate success in the camp, Kharaz is
an extremely isolated location and minimal opportunities exist
within. However, UNHCR communicated increasing difficulty in
convincing young males in particular to stay in the camp to develop
vocational or social skills.
15. (SBU) The Kharaz camp demonstrated remarkable improvements in
many areas. CONOFF also noted exceptional cleanliness in the mess
hall and toilets. Of the approximately 15,000 residents, only about
3,000 are living in tents; most have hardened structures and more
are being built every day. While significant social challenges
remain, it appears that Kharaz has made significant progress in
preparing refugees for life outside the camp. However, with rapidly
increasing numbers of migrants, increased funding will be necessary
to continue these programs.
16. (SBU) Kharaz and Basateen are the primary transition areas for
Yemen's most vulnerable refugees. While their numbers remain
relatively small, their populations are in constant flux. It is
therefore difficult to estimate the number of people who receive
services in these areas. However, as the general security situation
in Yemen has deteriorated to make monitoring and evaluation
difficult, many programs have shifted to the urban areas where the
majority of refugees reside. While these programs are certainly
important, more aid will be needed to help the newest and most
vulnerable arrivals. End Comment.