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Cablegate: Examining Options for Baghdad's Displaced Persons

DE RUEHGB #0452/01 0501630
P 191630Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: RefCoords conducted a series of visits to informal
settlements of internally displaced persons (IDPs) around Baghdad
province on February 9, 10, 11 and 15. The visits reaffirmed the
need to take a tailored, multi-faceted approach to create durable
solutions for the estimated 180,000 IDPs living in squalid
conditions in Baghdad's IDP settlements. Other key takeaways: the
"Diyala returns model" of coordinated interventions may have some
applicability in rural Baghdad areas; some IDPs facing difficult
conditions may be open to returns but know little of the current
conditions in their original neighborhoods; almost all of the IDPs
encountered in Baghdad were renters without strong ties to their
districts of record and have economic and security reasons for
remaining where they are; most IDPs prefer resettlement or local
integration but would require access to government lands; our
partners should work harder to be present in support of some of the
most vulnerable clusters we visited. Problems of government
engagement were apparent and will be a key to future success in
finding durable solutions. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) With strong support from U.S. Division-Center, the Baghdad
PRT, and embedded PRTs at bases around the Baghdad governorate,
Senior Refugee and IDP Coordinator, Assistance RefCoord, Baghdad PRT
Deputy Team Leader, and others, visited sites in Khadamiya
(northwest Baghdad), Mada'in (southwest Baghdad), southern Karradah
(southwest Baghdad), and Doura (southern Baghdad) from February
9-15. Sites around Baghdad have important differences, with the
best showing government pavement of streets and installation of
electrical systems (as in el Sadiq in Mada'in) and others
highlighting the urban poverty found in many developing world slums,
with large mounds of partially burned garbage, pools of raw sewage,
and crumbling houses made of mud brick, shards of metal, wood and
plastic (as in Doura and Karradah). In all settlements, residents
described the threats and violence that forced them to flee and
frustration with government authorities who lacked interest in their
condition. The following paragraphs summarize other main
conclusions and themes, the result of in-depth interviews with IDPs
and local officials:

Diyala in Baghdad?
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3. (SBU) The "Diyala returns model" of coordinated interventions of
housing, livelihoods and services by multiple agencies may have some
applicability in rural districts of the Baghdad governorate. In
Mada'in, a rural district southwest of the Baghdad municipality, the
Khazaliya 1 and 2 villages were flattened by sectarian violence
after 2006. The 430 families villages are mostly IDP returnees, and
about 50% of those who fled have not returned yet, according to
representatives with the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team
(ePRT) based in Mada'in. Many potential returnees own land there.
The village profile is similar to those we have targeted in Diyala:
a population willing to return, widespread destruction, an
agricultural base. The ePRT and USAID, working with a local
non-governmental organization in the two settlements, have focused
on providing agricultural assistance in the villages, using several
Quick Response Fund (QRF) grants and USAID's Community Action
Program III (CAP III). The Mada'in district government has pledged
to pave the road there. Comment: Our initial assessment is that in
Khazaliya, and perhaps other areas of Mada'in district, we could
QKhazaliya, and perhaps other areas of Mada'in district, we could
work with our partners to bring additional assistance to destroyed
villages to create durable solutions. End Comment.

So Close, Yet So Far...from Home
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4. (SBU) Some IDPs facing difficult conditions may be open to
returns but know little of the current conditions in their original
neighborhoods. RefCoords visits showed that IDPs usually were
living just 5-10 miles from their former homes, though they had
never travelled back to them. Notably, almost all of this migration
was into areas closer to the Baghdad city center. The Musa
al-Khadim cluster in the beladiyah (sub-district) of Khadamiya, in
northwest Baghdad, is home to 1,200 IDP families. It is a
dilapidated former Iraqi Army base where mainly Shi'a families
moved between 2006 and 2008. A large number of these families fled
nearby west Baghdad neighborhoods of Hasswa, Khazaliya, Abu Ghraib,
and Tarmiya as a result of threats and violence against Shi'a. The
same was true in other clusters: In el Sadiq, in Mada'in district,
410 of the site's 420-460 families had fled the Balad Ruz district
of Diyala province, about 20 miles away. At the site visited in
Doura district, families had fled from the district of Mahmoudiya,
directly south by less than 15 miles. Comment: Post believes that a
visitation program to their former areas of residence could be
arranged with a number of the IDPs mentioned above. End Comment.

The Renters' Dilemma

BAGHDAD 00000452 002 OF 003

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5. (SBU) A visitation program noted above would immediately run into
a singular problem: the fact that the vast majority of the IDPs
encountered in Baghdad had been renters before they fled. They
described both economic and security reasons for their intention to
remain where they are. In Rustimiya, in southern Karadah district
in southeast Baghdad, a site next to a current Iraqi Army (IA) base,
residents were living among large heaps of garbage in crumbling mud
homes. Nearly all were renters or had sold their homes in Diyala
province where they had fled sectarian violence. Most disliked
their current location, but because many residents could work at the
IA base next door or in the newly active industrial areas nearby,
most felt they had nowhere else to go. "Why would we want to stay
here? This place isn't even fit for animals," expressed one
resident. The need to discover a solution at Rustimiya is urgent
because the IA has expressed a need to retake the land in order to
expand, and the IDPs expect to have to depart at some time in the
near future. (Note: Almost all of IDPS settlements visited exist on
land owned by the GOI, either the Finance Ministry or Ministry of
Defense, which are the two largest landholders in Iraq. End Note).
Some IDPs at Rustimiya expressed a reluctant willingness to move
anywhere they might be provided land and homes.

Government Engagement Lacking
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6. (SBU) The option of obtaining land grants for IDPs is politically
sensitive, and government authorities have been unwilling to
entertain donation of it as an option to date, despite the existence
of large amounts of land around Baghdad owned by the GOI. Part of
their concern -- expressed by Baghdad Governor Salah Abdel-Razzaq in
a December meeting with Assistance RefCoord -- is that providing
land or providing any benefits to IDPs at settlements may create new
sectarian tensions in new areas. Others also worry that donating
land -- or providing other assistance for that matter -- at current
IDP sites may create a pull factor that brings more IDPs or
squatters into the city seeking benefits. Complicating matters more
is the fact that national elections on March 7 and government
formation over the ensuing several months mean the GOI will be
unlikely to make important decisions on displacement issues in the
near future.

7. (SBU) GOI engagement to date in Baghdad has been limited: Ninety
percent of Bahgdad's IDPs are able to access at least partial food
rations, according to the International Organization for Migration
(IOM), as well as medical and educational facilities. This access
is consistent with what RefCoords viewed during their visits.
However, many IDPs interviewed stated they had missed the deadline
to register as IDPs and had never been provided assistance or
informed of available services by GOI authorities. (Note: MODM has
registered about 45% of all IDPs in Baghdad, and provided 18% with
return grants, according to IOM. Visits by Refugees International
representatives over the last two weeks also suggested that a high
percentage of IDPs may be registered with MoDM, even if they have
not yet had access to MoDM grants. End note). This assistance gap
a source of strong IDP resentment. During a heated meeting with the
Khadamiya District Council, in northwest Baghdad, IDP
representatives stormed out in protect after shouting at their
representatives that, while the U.S. government cared about their
Qrepresentatives that, while the U.S. government cared about their
problems, GOI representatives did not. The argument erupted when
the Khadamiya DC, who admitted never having visited their
settlements, opposed the idea of providing land grants to allow IDPs
to stay where they were. In Khazaliya, Mada'in district, meanwhile,
PRT representatives noted that government approvals of PRT or
military proposed projects take weeks or months to be approved,
needlessly delaying urgently needed projects for which funding has
already been identified. Comment: RefCoords will continue to
engage at the district and governorate district level, and are
planning an event with Baghdad's District Council IDP
representatives in the near future. End Comment.

Pushing our Partners
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8. (SBU) Our partners should work harder to be present in support of
some of the most vulnerable clusters we visited. At all of the
settlements RefCoords visited, we were unable to detect a
significant UNHCR presence. At the settlement of el-Sadiq, with
some 420 families from Diyala province, the UNHCR team assigned to
the area could not remember having provided assistance there,
despite its relatively large size. RefCoord also had difficulty
obtaining an accurate grid coordinate from UNHCR for the site.
Other sites in need of assistance, where IDPs were not registered

BAGHDAD 00000452 003 OF 003

with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, where health and
sanitation issues appeared urgent, and where many children do not go
to school, need greater involvement of both our partners and
government authorities. Comment: On February 12, RefCoords reviewed
our impressions with the UNHCR Representative Daniel Endres,
stressing the need for UNHCR RICCs and PACs to be much more engaged
in outreach to the populations they serve. Endres took the points
very much to heart and conveyed the concerns to UNHCR staff. Endres
said the organization is now working on a plan to rationalize the
PAC and RICC structures and, following separate monitoring meetings
with RefCoord, is also working on a 2010 monitoring and evaluation
framework that includes outcome and impact indicators. End

- - - -

9. (SBU) While temporary assistance must remain a key part of our
efforts in Baghdad, RefCoords see opportunities for durable
solutions. As in Diyala, we found destroyed villages that our
partners can help reconstruct. We identified locations where
carefully developed visitation programs could give IDPs hope of
starting new lives. Of course, any solutions must be carefully
tailored to the individuals in question; given their different
circumstances, we must take a "retail" approach to every site in
Baghdad. Our biggest challenge -- and the biggest opportunity --
lies in the GOI's donation of some of its vast land holdings to
these populations. Although the GOI is unable to consider such
solutions now given the upcoming election and transition, we can and
will begin developing policy recommendations and identifying allies
-- particularly at the district level -- who can prepare the ground
for the next government. In the meantime, we should urge our
partners to engage more vigorously around Baghdad and advocate with
the GOI to retain humanitarian access to this huge population,
ensuring they are not forcefully relocated by the GOI until durable
solutions can be implemented. Access may become particularly
salient for RefCoord and our partners as U.S. forces drawdown,
reducing our mobility. End Comment.

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