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03DJIBOUTI1703 2003-09-18 12:14:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 001703 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2008




1. (U) On July 26 Djiboutian Interior Minister Abdoulkader
Wais announced that all undocumented foreigners must leave
Djibouti by August 31, a deadline which was later extended to
September 15. According to Djiboutian security officials 180
illegal aliens were seized in the Ambouli neighborhood of
Djibouti city on September 16. The illegals were to be held
overnight and repatriated on September 17. Sweeps continued
on the 17th in the downtown market area of Djibouti. 80
individuals were reportedly arrested on the 17th.
International media present in Djibouti report that the
sweeps took place in relative calm. Media reports from
unidentified Djiboutian government sources continue to
portray the USG as the primary force behind the expulsion
policy. END SUMMARY.



2. (C) The July 26 announcement by the Djiboutian Government
that all undocumented foreigners had 35 days to leave the
country was followed by an intense public awareness campaign
in the local state media. The tone of Interior Minister
Wais's public statements led everyone to believe that
security forces were prepared to enforce this policy.
Government officials cite security concerns, high
unemployment, and public sanitation as their primary
motivations for this policy but President Ismail Omar
Guelleh's re-election campaign in 2005 is also an important
factor. Expulsion is seen as a way of providing jobs for the
high numbers of unemployed in Djibouti that do not sense any
trickle down from the recent economic boom brought on by the
presence of coalition forces. The "cleaning up" emphasis put
on the expulsion campaign is being used to help Guelleh
overcome the derisive nickname of "President Poubelle"
(President Trash Can) he acquired as a result of the
disintegration of public works and sanitation during his
administration. Djiboutian critics of the U.S. engagement in
their country bolster their argument that the U.S. is behind
the expulsion policy by pointing to the fact that both
President Guelleh and Minister Wais are Ethiopian born and
would not have the courage, power, nor will to enact this
policy if the order did not come from the world super power.

3. (C) Small scale sweeps and repatriations in Djibouti city
began as early as mid-August. In late August, Wais extended
the deadline to September 15 after several large
demonstrations. By early September the Djiboutian
authorities reported that over 80,000 illegal aliens had left
the country voluntarily. Quantifying the statistical reports
of departing illegals is difficult however as estimates range
from 30-120,000. Djiboutian League of Human Rights (LDDH)
president, Jean-Paul Noel, reported two separate incidents in
late August of repatriates dying in the open desert after
having been deposited at the frontier by Djiboutian
authorities without food or water. Ethiopian exile
opposition groups claim the expulsion is being used to target
legitimate asylees for persecution and possible execution in
Ethiopia. Comment: While reports of such targeting are
credible, we have no evidence it is taking place as part of
the expulsion.



4. (C) On September 11 UNHCR authorities reported that
roughly 15,000 people had descended upon a transit center
built in the Ali Sabieh district to screen asylum seekers
(see ref B). A week before Minister Wais's July announcement
UNHCR committed to refurbishing a Mengistu-era transit center
in the southern district of Ali Sabieh to process
approximately 2,500 asylum seekers (largely Ethiopian Oromo)
that had been registered with the Djibouti office for nearly
10 years. In addition, the Djiboutian National Office for
Refugees and Displaced persons (ONARS) had been delivering
(comment: selling) asylee status cards in recent years to the
tune of some 10,000. Seeing an opportunity for aid (comment:
and reportedly at the urging of Djiboutian authorities)
thousands of individuals with and without various identity
documents descended upon the ill prepared transit center in
early September. UNHCR Djibouti director W. Collins Asare
reported that much of the problem stemmed from a rumor that
individuals at this transit center were to be processed for
relocation in Canada, the U.S., and Australia. On September
14, World Food Program logistics coordinator and security
advisor Robert Gillenwater reported that the Government had
cleared out the camp significantly and that WFP was providing
a small emergency ration to individuals quitting the camp for
foreign frontiers. A UNHCR protection officer who preferred
not to be named stated that he felt many of the individuals
who departed the transit center were Djiboutians with ONARS
asylee status who returned to Djibouti city when they
realized there was no hope of being relocated to a third



5. (C) Speculation has abounded from the outset regarding the
degree to which the Djiboutian authorities would pursue their
expulsion policy. LDDH published a white paper on September
14 declaring that the entrance into private homes by security
forces was unconstitutional and unacceptable. The decree
went on to quote Minister Wais as saying that "our raids will
be focused on suspected alien havens." A Djiboutian police
officer reported that the instructions they received from
their chief, Hassan Djama, were "you know where the
non-Djiboutians live...go find them." Security forces
reportedly arrested 180 individuals in the Ambouli
neighborhood on September 16 in pacific fashion. BBC
stringer Jonah Fisher reported that the sweeps had a staged
effect as security forces videotaped themselves apprehending
illegal aliens with extreme politeness.



6. (C) The short term impact of this policy is already being
felt by every woman in Djibouti who is cooking and cleaning,
frequently for the first time in her life. The shortage of
skilled and low wage laborers is hitting commercial and
private sectors alike. Long term however, the policy could
go a long way in regularizing the Djiboutian employment
market and prohibiting Djiboutian employers from exploiting
their labor. For this to be successful Djibouti will need to
consider lowering its high public health and social security
taxes on employers. Neither system works efficiently and
both workers and employers complain of the significant drain
it places on them while accomplishing nothing.



7. (C) The atmosphere in Djibouti city is tense for the
undocumented and the people who employ them as speculation
continues on where the next round of sweeps will take place.
The expulsions appear to be occurring in relative calm,
however the LDDH did report that one individual was shot and
killed in Ambouli on the 16th while fleeing from police.
With that exception in mind, the significant international
media attention on the ground seems to have focused the
Djiboutian leadership's attention on restraining their
security forces during the operations.

8. (C) The ongoing effort by Djiboutian authorities to pass
the responsibility for this Djiboutian policy to U.S.
security interests is likely a result of internal domestic
pressure. Many of Djibouti's most powerful businessmen are
suffering large losses as their labor costs rise and they
attempt to train entire staffs. Despite Post's public
disassociation from the policy international media outlets
(AFP, RFI, VOA, BBC) continue to feel the best story is the
one leaked by Djiboutian authorities that the U.S. is behind
the policy.