Cablegate: Potential for Refugee Resettlement From Sudan

DE RUEHNR #0340/01 0471438
R 161429Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Potential For Refugee Resettlement From Sudan

1. Summary: UNHCR and the Government of Sudan (GOS) are
receptive to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) initiating
operations in Sudan. UNHCR believes U.S. resettlement would
provide it a "strategic option" in its efforts to find durable
solutions for the protracted refugee population in the eastern
Sudan camps. UNHCR is prepared to refer up to 750 individuals to
USRAP this year and complete a multi-year group resettlement
proposal for 11,000 refugees in late 2010 if USRAP becomes
operational. The GOS is willing to work with USRAP and UNHCR to
try and resolve potential obstacles to USRAP operations such as
visa issuances and discriminatory departure fees for refugees.
Embassy Khartoum expressed concerns about the strain on mission
logistics - particularly motor pool resources - in hosting a
Department of Homeland Security/Citizens and Immigration Services
(DHS/CIS) adjudication team for up to two weeks and highlighted the
uncertainty of the Sudanese political landscape during the coming
year. End Summary.

2. The Nairobi-based Refugee Coordinator visited Khartoum
January 31 to February 3 to explore the possibility of
re-initiating the USRAP in Sudan. UNHCR has repeatedly urged USRAP
to re-open its refugee resettlement program in Khartoum as part of
its efforts to find durable solutions for refugees needing
protection and for the protracted caseload in the eastern Sudan
refugee camps. (Note: USRAP suspended its operations more than ten
years ago when DHS/CIS staff were unable to secure visas to
adjudicate in Khartoum. End Note). The Refugee Coordinator met
with IOM and UNHCR representatives as well as the GOS Deputy
Commissioner of Refugees (COR).

3. UNHCR-Sudan Representative Peter de Clerq confirmed that
expanding refugee resettlement was a critical component in UNHCR's
strategy to integrate locally the protracted refugee population in
the twelve refugee camps in eastern Sudan. De Clerq said about
66,000 refugees (primarily Eritrean and Ethiopian) are living in
the camps and they are ethnically and tribally very similar to the
local population. UNHCR believes that by expanding refugee
livelihood and self-reliance programs, increasing the number of UN
agencies and NGOs providing services in the area, and merging
refugee and host community services, the State government and local
communities will accept integration of the refugees. For those
refugees unable to be integrated, UNHCR planned submitting a three
year group resettlement proposal for up to 11,000 refugees, but has
not submitted the proposal as it wouldn't be credible without the
participation of USRAP. UNHCR's Assistant Representative, Maya
Ameratunga, however, confirmed that if USRAP became operational,
UNHCR would complete and submit the group proposal later this year.
De Clerq said if USRAP became operational, UNHCR could then use
resettlement as a "strategic option" to gain increased cooperation
from the Government of Sudan (GOS) by demonstrating that UNHCR had
successfully expanded international burden sharing in the plan to
close the camps in the east.

4. UNHCR's Assistant Representative, Maya Ameratung, confirmed
that UNHCR, having completed its verification exercise in the
camps, is prepared to double its referral submissions this year,
but doesn't have resettlement countries to accept them. Ameratunga
said that, in 2009, UNHCR resettled 765 refugees (459 urban-based
and 306 camp-based) to, primarily, Canada, Sweden, and Norway
against a plan of 1,000 refugee resettlements. In 2010, Ameratunga
said UNHCR had identified 6,550 refugees in need of resettlement,
but only had a capacity of resettling 625 because of a lack of
third country resettlement options. Ameratunga said that with
UNHCR's resettlement unit of three international (one in Kassala,
two in Khartoum) and three national staff (along with one long-term
International Catholic Migration Commission and one short-term
Mapendo secondee), UNHCR is able to double its individual
submissions this year and proposed submitting 750 individuals to
USRAP and 750 individuals to its traditional resettlement partners
in 2011. Ameratunga, however, cautioned that UNHCR would require
additional staff in 2011 should its group resettlement proposal be

5. IOM's Chief of Mission, Jill Helke, said that IOM would be
severely stretched to support USRAP should it initiate operations
in Sudan. IOM's resettlement team currently consists of one
Khartoum-based logistics staff who liaises with UNHCR to transport
refugees and who completes airline bookings as needed for other
resettlement countries. Helke, however, felt that IOM would be able
to transfer logistics staff from other programs to the USRAP

NAIROBI 00000340 002 OF 002

program should USRAP become operational. Helke also expressed
concern about IOM's capacity to support USRAP medical requirement
for departing refugees. She noted that the Norwegians planned to
use a GOS hospital in Kassala to screen departing refugees and
proposed that IOM's Africa Medical Chief conduct an assessment to
determine if the facility could be used for USRAP departures as
well. Helke confirmed that IOM does not have a base of operations
in the eastern camps nor a transit center to house refuges for the
five day medical observation period before departures, but could
establish either, if necessary. Helke warned that while obtaining
visas for expats is difficult, IOM has been able to secure GOS
travel permits and exit permits for departing refugees without a
great deal of difficulty. Finally, Helke cautioned that the GOS
sporadically "beats IOM with a stick" over its Chad program and
uses brinkmanship as its primary negotiating strategy.

6. The Refugee Coordinator and post's Political Officer met
with the Sudanese Deputy Commissioner of Refugees (COR), Abdullah
Sulieman, along with UNHCR's Ameratunga to review USRAP's interest
in re-initiating resettlement operations in Sudan. The COR Deputy
Commissioner confirmed the GOS saw expanding resettlement as a
humanitarian priority for refugees in Sudan and welcomed USRAP's
interest in initiating operations. Acknowledging that "something
went wrong" when CIS was refused visas several years ago, Mr.
Sulieman suggested that if COR was aware that a visa request was
being made it could help facilitate visa issuance or, at least, be
in a position to explain why visas were refused. The Refugee
Coordinator explained the stages of USRAP processing highlighting
that USRAP would opt to go slow to build confidence, but would
likely more than double refugee resettlement out of Sudan if the
program were to be established.

7. The Refugee Coordinator highlighted that a potential barrier
to USRAP operations in Sudan was the GOS $250/refugee exit fee
which the Deputy Commissioner promised to review with UNHCR to
bring more in line with other exit fees (Note: UNHCR said it is
already negotiating with COR to make the fees less discriminatory
towards departing refugees. End Note). The Refugee Coordinator
also highlighted the usual practice of DHS/CIS operating in a U.S.
cleared non-embassy environment to adjudicate refugee claims and
the possible need for USRAP's IOM and OPE partners to travel
frequently to the camps to pre-screen and complete medicals,
respectively. The Deputy Director said COR appreciated these needs
and would cooperate to help locate a suitable building as well as
to issue travel permits as needed. Finally, managing expectations
to discourage USRAP resettlement operations being a "pull factor"
was discussed with COR and UNHCR agreeing to finalize long-delayed
plans to register the urban Khartoum refugee population in order to
complete the verification exercise of the Sudan refugee population
from which appropriate resettlement candidates could be drawn.

8. Discussions with Embassy Khartoum's RSO and Pol Chief
highlighted logistical challenges in supporting an extended DHS/CIS
staff presence in Khartoum. The RSO noted that mid-March was the
target date for moving to a new embassy building (NOB) further from
the center of Khartoum where the current embassy is located. The
RSO also noted that Khartoum would most likely be the only
acceptable DHS/CIS adjudication site due to the difficulty of
obtaining travel permits and the lack of infrastructure outside of
Khartoum. He speculated that GOS security services would most
likely assist with identifying a suitable location, and that he
would support a site located at a GOS compound in or near a
military or police base that could provide suitable protection and
crowd control. Both the RSO and Vice Consul confirmed that while
four to five consular section windows may not be utilized in the
NOB (NIV operations will begin in Khartoum in April with NIV
operations scheduled to begin in one or two years), neither would
support refugee adjudications on embassy grounds. The Pol Chief
also noted that current mission policy requiring all embassy
movements be in armored vehicles severely strains the embassy motor
pool. She expressed concern about the embassy's ability to support
the daily transportation needs of a two week circuit ride of eight
to twelve DHS/CIS agents while simultaneously meeting the needs of
embassy staff and the embassy's many visitors. Finally, the Pol
Chief highlighted the challenging political landscape expected in
Sudan over the next twelve months with Presidential elections in
April and a potentially volatile referendum to determining Sudan's
unity scheduled for January 2011.

© Scoop Media

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