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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ACCRA570
2003-03-20 15:26:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Accra
Cable title:  

PRM/DAS KELLY RYAN'S MEETINGS WITH OPE STAFF

Tags:   PREF  IO  GH  UNHCR 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ACCRA 000570 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR PRM, GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF IO GH UNHCR
SUBJECT: PRM/DAS KELLY RYAN'S MEETINGS WITH OPE STAFF


UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ACCRA 000570

SIPDIS

STATE FOR PRM, GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF IO GH UNHCR
SUBJECT: PRM/DAS KELLY RYAN'S MEETINGS WITH OPE STAFF



1. Summary: PRM/DAS Kelly Ryan visited Accra, Ghana on
February 28 - March 4 to review U.S. Resettlement
Program (USRP) operations in West Africa. This cable is
one in a series of cables outlining meetings,
discussions and impressions gleaned from the visit.
Provided with various opportunities for consultations
with Overseas Processing Entity (OPE) staff over the
five-day period, Ryan came away with an appreciation of
numerous challenges faced following the events of 9/11.
Increased security checks, the implementation of RAVU,
limited access to refugee camps and expired medical
reports added to a significant delay in processing.
Despite the obstacles nearly 20,000 refugees were
processed in FY02 indicating the motivation and
professionalism is there among OPE colleagues to move
the program in the right direction. Addressing OPE
concerns with WRAPS will also keep momentum going. As a
result, DAS Ryan came away with a feeling of optimism
that once the backlog of stalled cases are cleared, the
operation will move more quickly. End summary.

OPE BRINGS NEW STAFF ON BOARD TO FACE POST 9/11
CHALLENGES


2. In background discussions with Refcoord, DAS was
debriefed on the history of OPE/Accra's office. Only
two years old, OPE inherited processing responsibilities
from the Joint Voluntary Agency (JVA) in Nairobi. Both
OPE and JVA were awarded cooperative agreements under
the auspices of Church World Service (CWS) based in NY.
Within this brief two year period, CWS changed the
leadership at OPE by replacing previous OPE Director
Regine McCalla with current Director Frances Tinsley.
Arriving with a strong background in domestic refugee
resettlement, Tinsley's posting in January of this year
provided a much-needed boost to OPE operations as it had
been without a permanent director for nearly six months.
Tinsley's ability to hit the ground running allowed OPE
to confront processing issues needing immediate
attention. Tinsley's deputy, Lucie Gagne also brings
extensive refugee experience to OPE as she has worked at
both UNHCR and JVA in W. African operations over the
past six years.

FY 02 OBSTACLES TO SPEEDIER PROCESSING

3.RAVU - Refcoord explained the myriad of issues and

policy concerns that surfaced following the events of
9/11. Acknowledging OPE's efforts to address the
rapidly changing USG policy on resettlement, Refcoord
informed DAS that despite some Herculean efforts,
refugees were not moving through the pipeline very
quickly. With the much-needed creation of the Refugee
Access Verification Unit (RAVU) at INS, now called the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), all Priority 3
(P3) cases were being reviewed for fraud and thus,
thousands of cases were stalled, while relationship
claims are being verified with DHS records. Department
and DHS expect final resolution of the cases within the
coming month with word that approval rate of cases
reviewed by RAVU may be less than 50 per cent. Once
this backlog of file review is finalized, OPE and other
processing partners look forward to processing refugees
in a timelier manner and with a lower rate of fraud.


4. Increased Security Provisions - The USRP has seen a
number of new security initiatives enacted in the wake
of 9/11. As efforts to vet security advisory opinions
(SAOs) became more cumbersome, OPE as well as other
processing entities, saw a slow-down in the movement of
refugees while SAOs trickled in.


5. Restricted Access to Refugee Camps - Throughout the
past fiscal year DHS interviews have been limited to
sites approved by both the post regional security
officer (RSO) and the DHS. As a result, much time and
effort was spent securing acceptable interview sites in
Accra, Conakry, Banjul and Abidjan. Collaboration on
these efforts were laudable as evidenced by the DHS
circuit ride in Abidjan last year. When DHS could not
get to the refugees, the refugees were brought to them.
Partners successfully moved and processed over 4,000
refugees residing in camps in the north of Cote d'Ivoire
by moving the caseload to Abidjan for adjudication. The
caseload consisted almost entirely of P-3 Liberians with
one UNHCR P-1 referral. Further collaboration allowed
the processing of smaller caseloads at
embassies/consulates in Nigeria, the Central African
Republic, Mali and Niger. Some of those cases had been
waiting for processing for years.


6. Ban on Priority One Cases from UNHCR - Following the
resettlement scandal at UNHCR/Accra, the Department
placed a ban on all processing of P-1 Referrals in W.
Africa. This ban was in effect for most of FY 02 and
contributed to the slowing down of processing and
departures. Upon DHS review of all UNHCR/Accra cases
and implemented investigative/corrective measures by
UNHCR, the Department lifted the ban late last year.


7. Expired Medical Reports - The majority of refugee
medical examinations have a validity period of one year,
with certain cases only having six months. The
cessation of departures inevitably led to thousands of
cases needing second medical exams as the validity
period came and went. OPE worked closely with the
International Office of Migration (IOM) to sift through
records to determine at which point the case cleared
RAVU and then needed another medical examination.
Following the review, thousands of applicants throughout

W. Africa were rescheduled for medical examinations with
country panel physicians.

8. Cross-Referenced Cases - Due to the high number of
cases that were linked, OPE soon discovered that if one
family was not cleared for departure either for waiting
for security approval, medical re-examination or RAVU
approval, neither case would be allowed to travel.
Acknowledging the size of many refugee families, this
obstacle proved significant in the slowing down of
processing. (Comment: This issue is being tackled in
part, by Tinsley who maintains that many cases were
inappropriately hard cross-referenced by OPE staff prior
to her arrival. End comment)

DESPITE OBSTACLES, 20,000 PROCESSED IN FIVE MONTHS


9. Despite the numerous challenges faced by OPE and
partners during the past fiscal year, 19,500 refugees
were processed in just five months. In addition,
interviews were conducted in nine countries throughout

W. Africa. Consolidation of Visas 92 and Visas 93
efforts at OPE has also nearly eliminated a 10 year
backlog at post. Initially handed approximately 600
Visas 92 and 93 cases, OPE has sifted through the
caseload and in collaboration with Post, resolved most
of the cases. OPE expects to move all several hundred
eligible Visas 92 and 93 cases this fiscal year.

FY 03 - RESOLVING OLD ISSUES, STREAMLINING FUTURE
OPERATIONS


10. RAVU Revoked cases - OPE informed DAS Ryan that
approximately 70 per cent of previously approved cases
in W. Africa are expected to be revoked in the coming
months. Furthermore, of those cases not yet
interviewed, at least 50 per cent will never make it
past RAVU to the INS interview stage. While this
reduction in the pipeline will affect previous
projections significantly, OPE believes it can still
complete processing for and move 4,000 people this
fiscal year.


11. WRAPS Needs Tweaking - OPE data staff provided DAS
Ryan with an overview of concerns regarding the newly
implemented World Wide Refugee Admissions Processing
System (WRAPS). While seeing WRAPS as a necessary
improvement from the old system, OPE outlined technical
delays in design construction that have caused
difficulty in maneuvering through the system. Refcoord
confirmed with OPE that most concerns involved technical
improvements scheduled for the future that had not been
made in what OPE viewed as a timely manner. DAS Ryan
took OPE's concerns on board and promised to raise
concerns with Washington upon her return. (Note:
Refcoord has raised OPE's concerns with WRAPS program
Manager Amy Nelson who is considering sending an
additional team to OPE/Accra as a follow up to initial
installation. A similar effort was successfully made in
Moscow to tweak the system and provide a training review
for OPE staff. End Note)


12. Cultural Orientation - Cultural Deputy Director
Emily Russ provided DAS Ryan with an overview of
operations in W. Africa. Confirming that refugees were
only scheduled for CO after clearing RAVU, Russ
described the curriculum, which includes a heavy
emphasis on self-sufficiency and U.S. law. Russ was
pleased to be developing a new section for youths.


13. Comment: It is clear that the obstacles facing OPE
and the USRP as a whole during FY 02 were significant.
While these obstacles contributed to frustration among
partners, domestic voluntary agencies and refugees
alike, it appears that the frustration may soon ebb.
Methodically and collaboratively working through the
challenges and resolving the thousands of cases pending
RAVU and security clearances will release the logjam in
the system. Despite OPE's concerns with the WRAPS
network, it appears that the problems as outlined are
scheduled to be resolved as each successive build is
completed. In the interim, the possibility of a second
WRAPS TDY support visit might be just the trick needed
to tweak the system and assuage OPE concerns. End
comment.
YATES