Cablegate: Parliament Summons Ministers to Report On Refugee

DE RUEHBUL #3912/01 3411305
P 071305Z DEC 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1.(SBU) SUMMARY. On November 16, the Wolesi Jirga,
Parliament's lower house, summoned Kabir Farahi, the Deputy
Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), and Abdul Karim
Barahowie, Minister of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR), to
brief Members of Parliament (MPs) on the planned closure of
Durgai (aka Zangal Patai) refugee camp in Malakand District
and the alleged mistreatment of Afghans in Pakistan. After a
spirited discussion, the Ministers were tasked to report to
Parliament within one week on their plan to engage the
Government of Pakistan (GoP) on these issues. On November
23, the Minister of MoRR reported that Pakistani authorities
agreed not to close Durgai camp and that the residents would
be allowed to stay until spring 2010. The Deputy Minister of
MoFA reported that the Pakistani authorities are abiding by
their obligations with respect to registered Afghan refugees.

Refugee Camp Closure

2. (SBU) MPs were puzzled about the proposed closures of
Durgai camp if the camp was legal and were especially
troubled because of the possibility of force return to
Afghanistan. Refugee camp representatives attending the
Parliament session needed information to take back to the
residents. Minister Barahowie of the MoRR proceeded to thank
Pakistan and Iran for hosting a large number of Afghans
refugees for the past 30 years and noted that the GoP cannot
deport a refugee holding a valid Proof of Registration card
(PoR). He also reported on his November 15 meeting with the
representative of the United Nations High Commission for
Refugees (UNHCR), resulting in a UNHCR visit to Pakistan on
November 16 and 17. (Comment: On his return to Kabul, the
UNHCR representative reported to Embassy Refugee Coordinator
that the camp in Malakand Division, North-West Frontier
Province (NWFP), was insecure with ongoing fighting and that
local Pakistanis were also being moved out of the area.
There is a feasible relocation site and negotiations continue
on delaying any return movement until next spring. End

3. (SBU) MPs expressed concern that the MoRR claims to be
prepared to receive refugee returnees, but there is no plan
in place for a crisis. They noted that a permanent solution
for returnees requires a plan and strategy that MoRR has not
provided. In addition, the current lives of refugees in
Pakistan and Iran are far better than the lives of returnees.
Steps must be taken to keep Afghans in Afghanistan and the
Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA)
must start thinking about projects to create jobs.

4. (SBU) Barahowie told the MPs that there are 59 MoRR
townships in 34 provinces to which refugees can return, but
only fourteen sites are active and MoRR has limited support
for these Land Allocation Scheme (LAS) sites. MPs responded
that land alone cannot solve all the problems faced by
returnees and that they need access to health care,
education, and employment. MPs again noted that a clear
strategy is needed for returnees, with MoRR,s
responsibilities and programs defined. (Comment: Many of the
LAS sites designated by MoRR are remote and lack
infrastructure, potable water, and economic opportunities,
thus making it difficult to support returnees. End Comment).

Alleged Mistreatment of Afghans in Pakistan

5. (SBU) The MPs spoke of the illegal arrest of Afghans in
Pakistan and increased police harassment. Minister Farahi
of the MoFA responded that insecurity in Pakistan increases
violation of Afghan refugee rights because they are a soft
target for Pakistan police. (Comment: Per the UNHCR
representative, PoR holders who are arrested are usually
released quite rapidly, demonstrating the usefulness of the
card as a protection tool. He also noted that there is no
sign of large scale deportation despite the fact that there
are large numbers of Afghans without documents in Pakistan.
End Comment).

Next Steps

6. (U) After thanking the MPs for their participation,
Speaker Qanuni noted that a clear strategy is needed to solve
the problems of Afghan refugees and returnees. He tasked the
ministers to contact their counterparts in the GoP to (a)
delay the closure of the refugee camp and (b) call a

KABUL 00003912 002 OF 002

tripartite commission meeting to discuss illegal arrests of
Afghans. (Comment: The UNCHR representative shared a readout
of his visit to Pakistan with both ministers. End Comment).

One Week Later

7. (U) Barahawie of the MoRR stated that an agreement was
reached with GoP authorities not to close the refugee camp in
NWFP. Water and electricity, which had been cut off, were
again available. The residents have not been asked to
repatriate and will be permitted to stay until spring 2010.

8. (U) Farahi detailed MoFA,s contacts with the GoP, UNHCR
authorities and officials in Kabul and Islamabad. He
highlighted the fact that the GoP is abiding by its
obligations to registered Afghan refugees. He also announced
that there would be a Tripartite Commission meeting of the
GOIRoA, GoP and UNHCR within in a month to conclude an
extension of the Tripartite Agreement. (Comment: The current
Tripartite Agreement expires on December 31 and, per UNHCR,
negotiations on the draft text of the proposed new agreement
are ongoing in Kabul and Islamabad. End Comment).

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