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Cablegate: Unhcr Concerned About Stricter Royg Policies On

VZCZCXRO3471
RR RUEHDH RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHYN #0291/01 0451351
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141351Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3791
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0304
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 0278
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 1744

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 000291

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/ARP AMACDONALD AND PRM JDEUTSCH
EMBASSY AMMAN FOR RINGRAHAM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PGOV PREL PMIG UNHCR YM
SUBJECT: UNHCR CONCERNED ABOUT STRICTER ROYG POLICIES ON

REFUGEES

REF: SANAA 211

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. In a February 1 meeting with the
Ambassador, UNHCR Representative Claire Bourgeois described
recent developments in ROYG policy towards both Ethiopian and
Somali refugees as reflecting an attempt by the ROYG to begin
controlling an ever-increasing refugee population. Bourgeois
asked the Ambassador to help facilitate the return of DHS
circuit-ride teams to Yemen in order to conduct interviews of
potential refugee resettlement candidates. Bourgeois also
requested help in securing additional funds for food aid for
the UNHCR-run Kharaz refugee camp. Although recent ROYG
policy changes towards refugees are a step in the right
direction, hasty implementation could lead to more problems
for both Yemen and its refugee population in the future. END
SUMMARY.

CHANGES IN ROYG REFUGEE POLICY AND ARRIVAL TRENDS
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) In a February 1 meeting with the Ambassador, UNHCR
Representative Claire Bourgeois expressed concern over recent
cases in which Ethiopian arrivals have been detained by ROYG
officials and then deported before being interviewed by UNHCR
regarding eligibiltiy for refugee status. Bourgeois said
that recent discussions with the ROYG have focused on gaining
access to these individuals and finding a way to recognize
more as refugees.

3. (SBU) Bourgeois believes that the increasing number of
deportations is part of a larger ROYG policy shift on
immigration and refugees. According to Bourgeois, Dr. Ali
Muthana, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and chairman of the
National Committee for Refugee Affairs (NCRA), said that
official ROYG policy towards Somali immigrants will change
but &they are in no hurry8 to implement these changes until
an effective system is in place. Muthana said changes will
possibly include scrapping universal prima facie refugee
status for all Somali arrivals to Yemen and granting it only
to those from certain unstable regions within Somalia; all
other arrivals would have to claim asylum. Another potential
change would include limiting the freedom of movement for
Somali refugees once they arrive. Muthana said that these
changes will not affect those currently in Yemen, but only
new arrivals. Refugees currently in Yemen are required to
register with the ROYG by March (reftel).

4. (SBU) Bourgeois stated that there has been a noticeable
decrease in the number of arriving Somalis this January
compared to a year ago at the same time. (Note: Although
January's numbers are down from the previous year, overall
refugee arrivals in 2009 saw an increase of 55 percent
compared to 2008 arrivals. End Note.) She attributed the
recent decrease to the increased strength of authorities in
the autonomous northerneastern region of Puntland, Somalia
and to the large-scale arrests of smugglers in Obock,
Djibouti. (Note: Puntland and Obock are the main departure
points for Horn of Africa refugees arriving in Yemen. End
Note.) Finally, Bourgeois believes that the market for
smugglers may have decreased as word spread among the Somali
population that, rather than making their way to the more
desirable Gulf states, most refugees remain in Yemen.

UNHCR REQUESTS ASSISTANCE FROM THE U.S.
---------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Bourgeois asked the Ambassador for help facilitating
the return of DHS circuit-ride teams to screen possible
resettlement candidates to Yemen. (Note: The DHS
circuit-ride teams are responsible for interviewing refugees
that have been prescreened by UNHCR and its partners and
determining eligibility for resettlement in the U.S. End
Note.) Historically, these visits were done bi-annually and
lasted approximately 10 days. However, visits by these teams
have been restricted due to ongoing security concerns in the
country. The last visit aimed at screening Somali refugee
candidates took place in July 2008. According to UNHCR,
there are 572 persons who have been prescreened and are
awaiting an interview with DHS. Bourgeois noted that the
places available for resettlement from Yemen are extremely
limited and that the cases in question represent those with
the most compelling needs. She added that delays in the
resettlement process add to feelings of hopelessness and
frustration in the refugee community. (Note: The U.S. is the

SANAA 00000291 002 OF 002


primary recipient of refugees from Yemen through the U.N.'s
resettlement process. End Note.) Bourgeois emphasized the
fact that future cancellations of DHS circuit-ride teams will
only increase tensions and significantly hinder UNHCR,s
resettlement efforts in Yemen. (Note: Post is currently
working with DHS to restart the circuit-ride teams. DHS has
submitted March 20-29 as tentative dates for the next visit
through the regional refugee coordinator. End Note.)

6. (SBU) Finally, Bourgeois expressed concern over the
continuation of food aid to the UNHCR-run refugee camp in
Kharaz, outside of Aden. The World Food Program (WFP)
projects that due to lack of funding, the amount of food aid
it will be able to distribute will decrease by 50 percent per
person from its original amount as of March 1, 2010. She
asked for any assistance the Embassy could provide. The
Ambassador told Bourgeois that he would discuss the
possibility of additional emergency assistance for WFP with
the USAID mission director.

COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Recent changes to the government's refugee policy
in Yemen - such as requiring registration, considering
suspending prima facie refugee status for Somalis and
restricting refugee movement in Yemen - appear to be part of
a broader security strategy on the part of the ROYG to
control its borders and increase stability within the
country. Although these steps are promising, hasty
implementation without a clear system in place to handle the
sheer number of refugees could be disastrous for the refugee
community. It is also unclear if the ROYG, burdened by so
many other pressing economic and political concerns, is
either willing or able to tackle the complicated and
potentially sensitive issues surrounding its buregeoning
African refugee population. END COMMENT.
SECHE

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