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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04DJIBOUTI1473 2004-11-21 04:00:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
Cable title:  

DJIBOUTI REFUGEE REPATRIATION UPDATE

Tags:   PREL PGOV PREF DJ SO 
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 001473 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF AND AF/E; LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER;
NAIROBI PLEASE PASS USAID (FESSENDEN)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2014
TAGS: PREL PGOV PREF DJ SO
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI REFUGEE REPATRIATION UPDATE

Classified By: Cons/Pol Andrea K. Lewis
For reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (U) Summary: Close to 19,000 people continue to be fed
in Djibouti's three refugee camps. The United Nations High
Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Program
(WFP) are coordinating efforts to assist with voluntary
repatriation of refugees back to Somalia. Their work is
carried out through the Djiboutian National Office for
Assistance to Refugees and Disaster Victims (ONARS)
Difficulties with transportation logistics and conflicting
interests of organizers hamper repatriation efforts. End
summary.



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Repatriations to Northern Somalia (Somaliland)


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2. (U) Of the 19,000 refugees in Djibouti, roughly 13,000
registered as originating from Somaliland, the
self-proclaimed republic occupying the northernmost province
of Somalia. Somaliland is now considered stable enough for
those refugees to return home after 13 years in Djibouti.



3. (U) The Somlalilanders are concentrated in the two
largest refugee camps in Djibouti: Holl Holl and Ali Addeh.
As of October 7, 2004 (the most recent count) Holl Holl
harbors and feeds 6,855 individuals and Ali Addeh has 7,466.



4. (U) Between February and October this year, 7,575
individuals turned in their ration cards and accepted
resettlement packages. Up to 1,200 additional refugees in
Holl Holl and Ali Addeh have signed up for repatriation and
are expected to turn in their ration cards by the end of


2004.



5. (U) UNHCR and WFP observers verify that despite pressures
from the Djiboutian Minister of the Interior to empty the
camps, repatriation continues to be voluntary. When a
refugee signs up to return home, they are assigned to a
convoy to be taken to Hargeisa. At the time of departure,
they turn in their ration cards and receive an assistance
package, which includes a small amount of cash as well as
nine months of staple foods.



6. (U) Since February, 13 convoys have departed Djibouti for
Hargeisa According to a local UNHCR representative, more
frequent convoys are not possible because the resettlement
programs in Hargeisa are struggling to absorb the inflow,
which also includes refugees returning from camps in
Ethiopia. Due to food crises in Ethiopia, emptying those
camps has been a higher priority to WFP and UNHCR.



--------------------------



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Repatriations to the rest of Somalia


--------------------------



--------------------------




7. (U) The transit camp, Aour Aoussa harbors mostly refugees
from Southern and Central Somalia. A registration drive
completed in early November counted 3,395 individuals living
in Aour Aoussa. ONARS oversaw the registration process, and
simultaneously identified 1,342 candidates for voluntary
repatriation.



8. (U) Such a high percentage of Aour Aoussa residents
wanting to return home surprised organizers. They are now
grappling with the difficult logistics of the repatriation.
The individuals come from all over Somalia and multiple
repatriation destinations must be accommodated.
Additionally, the mode of transportation is undecided. One
UNHCR representative informed ConOff that they are
discouraging boat transport because of perceived difficulties
in loading and unloading the available vessels. However,
they are balking at the quoted costs of using planes.



--------------------------



--------------------------


The future of the refugee camps


--------------------------



--------------------------




9. (U) Between 300 and 400 individuals in Holl Holl and Ali
Addeh are not considered eligible candidates for
repatriation. These include refugees from the war between
Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as Somali individuals awaiting
visa petitions submitted by relatives in the U.S., Canada or
the U.K.



10. (U) UNHCR and WFP hope to encourage all Somalilanders to
return home by the end of 2006. The plan then would be to
move those individuals ineligible for repatriation together
with anyone who chooses not to repatriate to Central or
Southern Somalia into one refugee camp, and close the other
two camps.



11. (SBU) Between February and October 2004, 7,575
individuals turned in their ration cards and accepted
resettlement packages. However, according to local UNHCR
representatives, only 20% of those that accepted the package
actually crossed the border into Somalia. It is unknown how
many of the remaining 80% were actually bone fide refugees
who have chosen to stay illegally in Djibouti, and how many
were actually Djiboutian citizens who managed to get a ration
card illicitly. Some of those may have been staying in the
camps, while many may have been dwelling and working
elsewhere, coming to the camps only for the meals.



12. (C) Comment: The high number of "repatriation
candidates" that do not leave Djibouti is worrisome. Most
are suspected to be Djiboutian citizens that were simply
getting free food. The fraud is particularly egregious since
most "refugees" have been collecting free meals for close to
13 years. However, whether they leave Djibouti or not, the
number of individuals being fed through refugee aid money is
decreasing, so involved parties seem to prefer not to
acknowledge the issue.



13. (C) Local government officials may also be exerting
quiet pressure to turn a blind eye to this practice, as it is
in their interest to have their constituents fed. ConOff was
informed that any scheduled repatriations in early 2005 were
likely to be postponed or canceled as repatriations will be
an unpopular issue during the campaign season leading to
elections in March.



14. (C) The Djiboutian Government has mandated that all
refugee work by UNHCR, WFP, or any other similar organization
must be coordinated locally through the National Office for
Assistance to Refugees and Disaster Victims ONARS.
Conversations with ONARS officials confirm post suspicions
that they will have little to do and may lose their funding
if the total number of refugees in Djibouti drops below
5,000. They recognize their vested interest in keeping the
refugee numbers high. While they seem to be cooperating for
now, repatriations may find logistics becoming increasingly
difficult throughout 2005 as the coordinators attempt to
extend their employment. End comment.
RAGSDALE