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03DJIBOUTI1801 2003-09-29 13:04:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 001801 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/29/2008


Classified By: CON CBEAMER for 1.5 (band d)


1. (C) The Djiboutian Government's announced expulsion order
for all undocumented foreigners of August 31, later extended
to September 15, brought to the surface the problem of asylum
seekers currently in Djibouti. The Djiboutian committee
responsible with determining first asylum status has reviewed
only 60 cases since 1995 and has not met in several years.
UNHCR has some 2,500 registered asylum seekers (largely Oromo
Ethiopians), and is dealing
with an estimated 6-7,000 people located at the Aouraoussa
transit center. Djiboutian Interior Minister Abdoulkader
Wais has told UN representatives that all of these
individuals "shall be treated as asylum seekers."
Consequently, UN capacity and resources are being turned from
program mandates to address this displacement crisis created
by the Djiboutian Government. The National Office for
Refugees and Displaced Persons (ONARS), continues to siphon
food and supplies to security forces. WFP logistics officer
Robert Gillenwater has been threatened with PNG status for
his refusal to allow ONARS to divert resources and fears that
the Government may escalate obstructionist tactics,
potentially including impeding food transshipment to
Ethiopia. End Summary.



2. (C) In late July upon confirmation from the Djiboutian
Interior Minister that the asylum determination committee
would reconvene and begin assigning status to claimants UNHCR
agreed to recondition a transition center at Aouraoussa in
the southern district of Ali Sabieh to process asylee claims.
On August 28 UNHCR and WFP received word from Djiboutian
authorities that all asylees must be moved to the transit
center within 36 hours. They convened a temporary processing
center at a Djiboutian soccer stadium and were descended upon
by an estimated 10-15,000 people. A decision was made by
Djiboutian authorities for security reasons to forward all
processing to the Aouraoussa transit center. The transit
center was built for a capacity of 2,500 to 3,000 and was
incapable of dealing with the mass population that camped
around it. Initial estimates taken from head of households
put the number of people at the camp at 12-15,000. Minister
Wais addressed the people at the transit center and asked
that only genuine asylum seekers remain. UNHCR rep. Collins
Asare believes that 1,500-2,000 individuals have departed the
transit center for foreign soil. WFP has been providing
one-week emergency food rations to those who leave
voluntarily. As time has gone on these individuals begin to
realize they will not be receiving first world immigrant
status or massive food aid
packages. UNHCR estimates that there are 6-7,000 people
still clinging to the center.



3. (C) Donors (France, EU, U.S., UN agencies) met September
24 to discuss the ongoing situation at Aouraoussa transit
center. UNHCR rep. Collins Asare communicated a government
request for transport assistance to help move more people
from the transit center to foreign frontiers. The Djiboutian
government rented Somaliland trucks for the departure of
several hundred individuals but complained they could not
afford more. Asare complained that UNHCR did not have any
more resources to spare and that it was in the donor interest
to move these people now as opposed to feeding them later.
The U.S. response was that we had already received and denied
a Minister of the Interior request for assistance in this
vein. The E.U. response was that the Djiboutian military had
plenty of vehicles if they really wanted to transport people.
The French response was that the Djiboutian government had
not approached them,
the Djiboutian government had plenty of resources to
accomplish the task, and at most they would consider helping
with fuel costs.

4. (C) WFP logistics officer and acting head, Robert
Gillenwater, stated that he continued to battle with ONARS on
food distribution to the transit center and existing refugee
camps. Gillenwater said that he confirmed his suspicions
that food stocks were being diverted to security forces. He
feels that the ongoing practice has been to divert the extra
food from the inflated numbers at the existing camps to
security forces and reports that Djiboutian military and
police officials have confirmed his theory. He reports that
he has cut assistance to ONARS and his efforts to build their
capacity. The Interior Minister has threatened him with PNG
status. In a separate meeting with officials from the
Presidency Gillenwater reports the President is considering
closing ONARS and establishing another government agency to
handle these issues. Gillenwater recommends using Crescent
Rouge and building there capacity. When questioned as to why
WFP did not seek private contractors their transport and
delivery services Gillenwater replied that he feared if he
pushed the Government too far they would close their port to
Ethiopian food aid.



5. (C) There have been ongoing debates about the actual
number of refugees living in the two existing refugee camps
at Ali Adde and Holl Holl. Officially, UNHCR statistics claim
there are 21,000. A 2002 repatriation goal of 12,000 people
to Somaliland was set of which only 1,800 returned. Thus far
this year only 800 people have been repatriated. The Asian
Medical Doctors Association (AMDA), charged with providing
medical treatment for camp residents, report that they treat
between 4-6,000 refugees per month and consistently see the
same people. Numerous credible sources (including Conoff)
have visited the camps and believe it possible that there are
more than 10-12,000 refugees living in the existing camps.
It is possible that many of the registered refugees return to
the camps to collect their food stipends but live elsewhere.
The community refugee representative at the Holl Holl camp is
a sitting deputy in the Somaliland Parliament.



6. (C) It seems the Djiboutian Government is coming closer
to realizing its objective of a third refugee "camp" in
Aouraoussa. There remain a significant number of individuals
in the camp who are of dubious eligibility for asylum status
but who have apparently been anointed asylum seekers by the
Minister of the Interior. It will take a strong stance from
UNHCR and other UN agencies to counter this effort. UNHCR
Director Asare is, however, new and has been asked to carry
out a wide range of tasks including clearing his office of
corruption, jump starting a dead repatriation process, and
now handling a significant new caseload. Djiboutian
authorities are pressing both the UNHCR and the WFP hard with
a sometimes explicit threat of expulsion for those who do not

7. (C) In fact, most of the food aid for Djibouti reaches
its intended recipients, but that is due to the hard line set
down by the WFP staff in Djibouti who will not accept
misallocations. Post intends to support the WFP position
with the Djiboutian government. While Gillenwater may be in
some risk of expulsion, we feel it highly unlikely that the
Djiboutian Government would risk its growing Port business
and commercial goodwill with an action so rash and
counterproductive as shutting off the flow of Ethiopian food