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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05AMMAN297
2005-01-13 04:07:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Amman
Cable title:  

NO MAN'S LAND REFUGEES FACE POOR SECURITY

Tags:   PREF  PREL  PTER  EAID  MOPS  IZ  JO 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 AMMAN 000297 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR PRM AND NEA
CAIRO FOR CHEYNE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/12/2015
TAGS: PREF PREL PTER EAID MOPS IZ JO
SUBJECT: NO MAN'S LAND REFUGEES FACE POOR SECURITY
CONDITIONS

REF: A. DECEMBER 6 AMMAN REFCOORD WEEKLY AREA REPORT

B. 04 AMMAN 7529

C. 03 AMMAN 4306

Classified By: Charge David Hale for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).



1. (C) SUMMARY: Seven-hundred fifty asylum seekers formerly
resident in Iraq have been in the no-man,s land at the
Jordan-Iraq Al Karama border crossing since April 2003. In
the absence of concrete assurances that they will have
somewhere to go after Jordan, the GOJ fears admitting them to
a camp inside Jordan proper at Ruwaished would create another
long-term refugee population. UNHCR and its implementing
partners are struggling to provide basic services after an
insurgent attack targeted U.S. and GOJ installations in the
no-man,s land. GOJ border officials worry the refugee camp
offers potential cover to insurgents, and are pressing their
Interior Minister to move it to a more isolated location also
within no-man,s land (NML). END SUMMARY.



2. (SBU) Amman and Baghdad-based regional refugee
coordinators made a joint monitoring trip to UNHCR refugee
camps on the Jordan-Iraq border December 15 to assess
UNHCR,s operations, and to verify whether a second stream of
refugees leaving the UNHCR's Al Tash camp near Ramadi are
attempting to enter Jordan. They discussed border security
separately with Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate
(GID) officials based at Karama, the Humanitarian Assistance
Coordination Center (HACC) in Jordan, Amman-based UNHCR
Jordan and UNHCR Iraq HQ Representatives, and Jordan,s
Prince Rashid, Chair of GOJ implementing partner, the
Hashemite Charitable Organization (HCO), December 16-27.
Additional reports on the services UNHCR and its implementing
partners are providing in both Jordan-Iraq border camps, and
the root causes of the latest Al Tash outflow will be sent
septel.



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


THE REFUGEES


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





3. (C) As reported in reftels, a core group of several
hundred Iranian Kurds (mainly from Al Tash camp) -- along
with smaller number of self-identified Iranian oppositionists
and about 70 Arabs of various nationalities who were resident
in Iraq before April 2003 -- have been seeking temporary
asylum in Jordan. The GOJ admitted 386 of the Palestinians
with family ties to Jordanians in August 2003. It also
allowed about 200 Palestinians without those ties to enter
the UNHCR camp that was set up in Ruwaished in anticipation
of hostilities with Iraq, along with a handful of Iranians
that the GOJ wanted to monitor as suspected MEK. However,
Jordan has resisted admitting the Iranian Kurds because it
regards them as a potential long-term refugee population. As
of December 27, NML was home to 664 Iranian Kurds, five
Iranians claiming to be oppositionists, two Iranians with no
political affiliation and 67 Palestinians, Iraqis and Arabs

"returned" to the NML for various reasons detailed in
reftels. UNHCR keeps no political data on the non-Kurd
Iranians but UNHCR,S Jordan Representative confided that one
claims to be a royalist, one a communist, one a KDP-I
supporter, one Fidayeen al Khalq (FKI) and one MEK. UNHCR
has found that only about 100 do not meet its profile for
third-country resettlement, contrary to Ref. C. Although
UNHCR has started to secure third-country resettlement
options for some of the Al Tash Kurds in NML (ref A), we and
UNHCR Jordan assume the population will remain stable through
mid-2005 due to a boycott that disrupted individual screening
(para 5).



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

--
THE PROTECTION PROBLEMS AND NEW SECURITY THREAT


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

--



4. (SBU) UNHCR and its implementing partners in the NML camp
-- the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization (HCO),
which took over management of all of the border camps in
March 2003, and CARE, which provides community services --
were struggling to provide adequate protection for vulnerable
camp residents, and some services for the larger camp, when
refcoords visited December 15. UNHCR's border field staff
and its Amman-based Representative admit that poor security
conditions have disrupted their operations for the past two
months. The NML camp,s location in the 2-km wide strip
between the Iraqi and Jordanian border posts at the Karama
crossing has created a legal black hole, hampering UNHCR and
HCO efforts to protect the camp,s residents, and to maintain
some normal services. NML camp, established under Jordan,s
March 2003 MOU with UNHCR, is technically on Jordanian
territory. However, until three weeks ago (see para 5), the
MOI maintained the camp was in Iraq, in order to quell
growing fears in Jordan of a large refugee inflow. UNHCR and
HCO staff claim that they have struggled to keep refugees
from selling food and commodities to the hundreds of trucks
that queue at the border each day, despite the fact that one
boy was killed after getting caught in a truck wheel. UNHCR
and HCO staff are also frustrated that GOJ prosecutors have
determined that they cannot charge under Jordanian law three
camp residents whom they believe committed rape, nor one
Iraqi resident who was caught torturing a woman by suspending
her upside down by wire from a tent pole.



5. (SBU) As reported in ref A, UNHCR Jordan Representative
Sten Bronee believes that this "climate of lawlessness"
contributed to a boycott of non-essential camp services by
the self-appointed Iranian Kurd camp committee organized to
pressure UNHCR to focus their efforts exclusively on
third-country resettlement. The boycott was enforced by
blocking entry of UNHCR and CARE staff to the camp by means
of physical threats. MOI refused UNHCR,s request to post
security at the camp until late November, when HCO intervened
after camp residents threatened to extend their strike to
essential food, water and medical services. The Iranian Kurd
camp committee agreed to allow UNHCR staff to reenter the
camp on November 26, after border officials explained to them
that their verbal and physical threats violated Jordanian
law. According to Bronee, MOI also agreed at that time to
extend to NML the security cost sharing arrangement it
currently has with UNHCR in Ruwaished camp in order to
establish a permanent national police presence to monitor the
camp perimeter and to guard UNHCR offices during resettlement
screening interviews. UNHCR Jordan has secured funding from
UNHCR Geneva to cover these costs, but is still awaiting a
proposal from the Ministry of Planning.

DECEMBER 3 ATTACK


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





6. (C) Threats to nearby Jordanian border security offices
and U.S. military facilities have also disrupted services in
the NML camp, located in a 120,000 square meter rectangle
approximately 1.5-km from U.S. Marine and Army units posted
at the border. Heavy traffic, including large convoys
supporting the U.S. effort in Iraq, runs on the busy
Amman-Baghdad highway through the Al Karama crossing. One
side of the perimeter fence is located less than 100 feet
from the highway. The vulnerability of this location was
demonstrated December 3, when two suicide car bombs,
originating in Iraq, targeted U.S. and GOJ installations in
the no-man,s land. The first vehicle detonated near the
U.S. Marine position on the Iraqi side of the frontier. The
second, which failed to explode, ran off the road about 50
feet from the NML camp fence. According to GID officials at
the border, the second driver was aiming for a line of oil
tankers at the checkpoint queuing to leave Jordan. The
driver fled into the NML camp where he was captured with the
help of the refugees. U.S. Humanitarian Assistance
Coordination Center border liaison officers told refcoords
December 16 the failed attack could have caused significant
damage and loss of life in the camp. The Jordanian Director
of General Intelligence at the Karama Border crossing, Lt.
Col. Al Sharafat (strictly protect), explained that Jordanian
officials must perform thorough screening because the Dulaimi
tribal officials who monopolize positions in the Iraqi border
services in this part of Iraq are corrupt and do not search
the hundreds of vehicles leaving Iraq daily, putting the camp
and his own facilities in danger. Al Sharafat, who has been
at Al Karama for the last two years, said the current
security situation was the worst he had seen.



7. (C) The Marine position 1.5-km east of the camp has
engaged in three firefights with insurgents in the last
month. Refugees also told visiting refcoords that two
strangers dressed in black had infiltrated the camp the
previous night. UNHCR suspects the incident may have been a
robbery as one of its storage facilities was ransacked, but
GID took the report seriously enough to shut down the border
for several hours. The camp residents fear retaliation for
their role in apprehending one of the December 3 attackers.
Female residents organized a peaceful demonstration at the
entrance for two weeks after the December 3 VBIED attack
asking for improved security. Rather than pressing for
third-country resettlement, all female residents who
approached refcoords requested that camp safety be improved.



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


CARE AND UNICEF UNWILLING TO WORK IN NML


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





8. (SBU) Camp staff are also increasingly unwilling to travel
through the Al Karama border crossing. CARE has suspended
its work in the NML until the Jordanian authorities improve
security. They explain that without diplomatic status they
feel particularly vulnerable queuing at the crossing to reach
the camp. Sten Bronee also told refcoord December 21 that he
suspects that the two loan ICMC and ICRC staff seconded to
his office, who were working as resettlement officers at the
border, broke their assignments early as a result of the
deteriorating conditions at the NML. UNICEF provides primary
and intermediate schooling for children in Ruwaished camp,
but has long refused to work in the NML because Jordan does
not clearly recognize it as Jordanian territory.



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


THE GOJ,S RESPONSE


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





9. (C) The GOJ is increasing security at NML camp in response
to the December 3 attack. National police
requested by UNHCR are patrolling the camp perimeter, and
border officials are digging a trench with a dirt berm two or
three meters high on the highway shoulder to control access
to the camp. Border officials have also started construction
on a new checkpoint that would move vehicle inspections about
500 yards further away from the camp. However, Lt. Col. Al
Sharafat revealed that border officials fear the NML camp
could offer cover to future attackers, and have sent a
recommendation to the Interior Minister to shift the NML camp
5 km south, to an isolated location also within no man,s
land. He privately expressed doubts the 5-km move would
improve the situation. While moving the camp might mitigate
the impact of an explosion on the highway, it would not, in
his opinion, remove the residents far enough to be out of the
reach of insurgents who might want to target the camp,
intimidate its residents, or use it as a staging point. The
HCO Camp Manager of NML said a forced relocation would plunge
camp management into another standoff with residents; he
recalled that following flooding last summer, the refugees
had protested relocating the camp to higher ground as an
attempt to "stabilize" them in the no-man,s land.



10. (C) UNHCR Jordan,s Representative told Amman Refcoord
December 21 that he opposes, on security and financial
grounds, the proposal to move the NML Camp within the
no-man's land. Bronee explained that he is eliminating nine
positions because UNHCR Geneva cut his requested operational
budget (which comes from the special Iraq appeal) by 29%. He
said that it cost UNHCR $113,000 to relocate the NML camp
last summer. While Bronee added that Jordan should be
pressed to uphold fully its first asylum responsibilities,
his contentious relationship with Interior Minister Habashneh
limited his effectiveness. Bronee said that the Minister of
Planning might be a possible alternative. COMMENT: We will
continue to encourage UNHCR Jordan to use this approach. END
COMMENT.



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


THE POSSIBLE SOLUTION


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





11. (C) In a December 27 meeting, Prince Rashid told Amman
refcoord that he had used the December 3 attack to press King
Abdullah to allow him to identify a safer location for the
NML camp, noting that transfer to Ruwaished would be the most
logical and cost effective solution but would require careful
handling to achieve. He explained that he had meant to press
the issue earlier, but had been consumed setting up HCO,s
ongoing operations in Bam and Darfur and had already been
accused by a senior GOJ official of "appointing himself
Governor of Ruwaished." However, Rashid said he felt
compelled to intervene in the situation because of the
"personality conflict" between Interior Minister and UNHCR's
Representative. Rashid argued that the Interior Minister is
"willing to listen to reason, but must have a face-saving
option." He proposed arranging a joint meeting with the PM,
the MOI and the HCO
to discuss the NML camp,s relocation the first week of
January.



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


COMMENT


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





12. (C) UNHCR, HCO and refcoords in the NEA region believe
the NML arrangements are neither adequate nor were intended
to be long-term. Recent security concerns, and the fact
UNHCR can no longer support two
separate border operations with special Iraq appeal funding,
suggests that a way must be found to resolve the lingering
problem at the NML camp. Earlier hopes UNHCR would
reestablish operations inside Iraq and open a camp in
northern Iraq to support the NML population no longer appear
realistic. We share Prince Rashid,s assessment that senior
Jordanian officials will not agree to admit the NML refugees
into Jordan proper without concrete assurances that they will
be re-settled in third countries or returned to Iraq by a
date certain. Therefore, our focus should be on insisting
that UNHCR develop a more realistic strategy on camp
management.



13. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.

HALE