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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05CAIRO2682 2005-04-06 14:59:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Cairo
Cable title:  

LIBYA - UNHCR TRIPOLI REQUESTS USG HELP

Tags:   PREF PHUM PREL ASEC EG LI UNHCR 
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1. (U) THIS IS AN ACTION REQUEST. SEE PARAGRAPH 10.



2. (U) THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN CLEARED BY USLO TRIPOLI.



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SUMMARY


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3. (SBU) INCIDENTS OF DETENTION AND DEPORTATION OF ILLEGAL
MIGRANTS FROM LIBYA ARE INCREASING. SOME OF THESE
DEPORTEES COULD BE REFUGEES DESERVING INTERNATIONAL
PROTECTION. INSTANCES OF FORCED REPATRIATION ARE BOUND TO
INCREASE AS THE EUROPEANS AND LIBYANS CONTINUE THEIR
EFFORTS TO STOP THE USE OF LIBYA AS A CONDUIT FOR ILLEGAL
MIGRATION TO EUROPE. LIBYA IS NOT A SIGNATORY TO THE 1951
UN REFUGEE CONVENTION AND DOES NOT RECOGNIZE THE UN HIGH
COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES (UNHCR), WHICH IS ROUTINELY
DENIED ACCESS TO DETAINEES. UNHCR'S TRIPOLI OFFICE HAS
APPROACHED US, AS A MAJOR UNHCR PARTNER, REQUESTING USG
SUPPORT IN ITS EFFORTS TO PERSUADE THE LIBYANS TO RECOGNIZE
ITS STATUS - PERHAPS THROUGH A MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
(MOU) - AND TO ALLOW IT TO OPERATE EFFECTIVELY IN LIBYA.
UNHCR HAS SUGGESTED A BILATERAL U.S.-LIBYA STRATEGY
INVOLVING GENEVA, THE USLO IN TRIPOLI, THE REGIONAL REFUGEE
COORDINATOR, AND PRM IN WASHINGTON. GIVEN THE INVOLVEMENT
OF THE EU IN THIS ISSUE, WE BELIEVE WE SHOULD ALSO PRESS
THE CASE THROUGH BRUSSELS, LONDON, AND ROME, ARGUING THAT
ANY DEALS STRUCK WITH THE LIBYANS FOR THE RETURN OF ILLEGAL
MIGRANTS SHOULD INVOLVE UNHCR. WE SUGGEST THAT POSTS IN
ROME, BRUSSELS, LONDON, AND GENEVA SHOULD JOIN WITH USLO
TRIPOLI IN MAKING THE CASE FOR UNHCR INVOLVEMENT. END
SUMMARY.



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UNHCR'S GROWING FRUSTRATION


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4. (SBU) THE DEPORTATION LAST MONTH OF 180 PEOPLE FROM THE
ITALIAN ISLAND OF LAMPEDUSA TO LIBYA AND UNHCR'S INABILITY
TO GAIN ACCESS TO THE DEPORTEES EITHER IN ITALY OR LIBYA
ADDED FURTHER FUEL TO UNHCR'S GROWING FRUSTRATION WITH ITS
IMPOTENCE IN DEALING WITH LIBYA'S EFFORTS TO RETURN
FORCIBLY THE THOUSANDS OF ILLEGAL MIGRANTS WHO HAVE COME TO
LIBYA IN RECENT YEARS WITH THE HOPE OF CROSSING THE
MEDITERRANEAN TO EUROPE.



5. (SBU) IN ADDITION TO THE FORCED RETURN - WITH EUROPEAN
COLLABORATION - OF THOSE PICKED UP AT SEA EN ROUTE TO
PANTELLERIA, LAMPEDUSA, OR OTHER EUROPEAN PORTS, LIBYA IS
DETAINING AND DEPORTING INTENDING MIGRANTS WHO HAVE BEEN
UNABLE TO ATTEMPT THE CROSSING. UNHCR SUSPECTS THAT SOME
OF THOSE BEING RETURNED ARE GENUINE ASYLUM SEEKERS IN NEED
OF INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION. (NOTE: THE RISK OF
REFOULEMENT AND THE SUBSEQUENT NEED FOR INTERNATIONAL
OVERSIGHT OF DEPORTATIONS WERE GRAPHICALLY ILLUSTRATED LAST
YEAR WHEN A GROUP OF ERITREANS HIJACKED THEIR DEPORTATION
FLIGHT AND DIVERTED IT TO KHARTOUM RATHER THAN FACE
FORCIBLE RETURN TO ASMARA. END NOTE.)



6. (SBU) LIBYA IS A SIGNATORY TO THE 1969 OAU REFUGEE
CONVENTION BUT NOT THE 1951 UN CONVENTION. IT HAS NO
SPECIFIC ADMINISTRATIVE OR LEGISLATIVE STRUCTURE TO DEAL
WITH REFUGEES AND ASYLUM ISSUES AND HAS NO LEGAL PROCESS
FOR DETERMINING REFUGEE STATUS. SO FAR, THE GOVERNMENT OF
LIBYA (GOL) HAS RESISTED ANY SUGGESTION THAT IT RECOGNIZE
THE UNHCR, WHICH FOR THE PAST THIRTEEN YEARS HAS OPERATED
WITHOUT ANY LEGAL STATUS IN LIBYA. THE GOL NO DOUBT FEARS
THAT ACCESSION TO THE 1951 CONVENTION AND/OR RECOGNITION OF
UNHCR COULD LEAD TO AN EXPECTATION OF LIBYAN RESPONSIBILITY
FOR THE CARE AND PROTECTION OF ITS MANY ILLEGAL RESIDENTS.
RECOGNITION OF UNHCR COULD ALSO DENY LIBYA THE FLEXIBILITY
TO DEPORT THESE PEOPLE AT WILL.



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SITUATION DETERIORATING


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7. (SBU) UNHCR FIRST OUTLINED ITS CONCERNS TO US DURING A
JUNE 2004 VISIT TO TRIPOLI BY CAIRO-BASED REGIONAL REFUGEE
COORDINATOR. AT THAT TIME UNHCR'S FRUSTRATION WAS SUCH
THAT REPRESENTATIVE LARBI MEBTOUCHE WAS CONSIDERING
RECOMMENDING THAT UNHCR PULL OUT OF LIBYA ALTOGETHER.
UNHCR HAS SINCE DISCUSSED THESE CONCERNS WITH USLO TRIPOLI
ON A NUMBER OF OCCASIONS. MEBTOUCHE NOW SAYS THE SITUATION
HAS DETERIORATED MARKEDLY SINCE LAST OCTOBER AND REFUGEES
AND ASYLUM SEEKERS ARE INDISCRIMINATELY SWEPT UP IN GOL
EFFORTS TO COMBAT ILLEGAL MIGRATION THROUGH ARBITRARY
ARRESTS, DETENTION, AND DEPORTATION. ACCORDING TO UNHCR
THE GOL HAS MADE NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN POSSIBLE ASYLUM
SEEKERS AND MIGRANTS AND HAS REPEATEDLY DENIED UNHCR ACCESS
TO THE DETAINEES. UNHCR POINTS OUT THAT LIBYA'S FAILURE TO
RECOGNIZE THE PRESENCE OF REFUGEES IS CONTRARY TO GOL
INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENTS UNDER THE 1969 OAU CONVENTION.



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UNHCR PROPOSES A STRATEGY


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8. (SBU) MEBTOUCHE HAS AGAIN RAISED THE ISSUE WITH REFCOORD
AND WILL NO DOUBT REITERATE UNHCR CONCERNS DURING A PLANNED
VISIT TO CAIRO ON APRIL 26. HE IS NOW ACTIVELY SEEKING USG
SUPPORT, AS A MAJOR UNHCR PARTNER, FOR UNHCR'S EFFORTS TO
PERSUADE THE LIBYANS TO RECOGNIZE ITS STATUS - PERHAPS
THROUGH AN MOU - AND TO ALLOW IT TO OPERATE EFFECTIVELY IN
LIBYA. MEBTOUCHE HAS SUGGESTED THE FOLLOWING STRATEGY:

- THE U.S. MISSION IN GENEVA TO LIAISE WITH ACTING HIGH
COMMISSIONER CHAMBERLAIN AND TO PRESENT THE CASE FOR RECOGNITION
TO THE LIBYAN MISSION TO THE UN;
- USLO TRIPOLI TO DEMARCHE THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND
PERHAPS THE OTHER RELEVANT MINISTRIES, SECURITY AND JUSTICE;
- PRM TO APPROACH THE LIBYAN MISSION IN WASHINGTON;
- REFCOORD TO JOIN WITH USLO IN ENGAGING THE GOL AT THE
WORKING LEVEL, PERHAPS IN THE CONTEXT OF AN INFORMAL ROUNDTABLE
IN TRIPOLI WITH SELECTED PARTICIPANTS, TO HELP CLARIFY THE
ISSUES.



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BUT A BROADER APPROACH IS REQUIRED


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9. (SBU) WHILE WE SUPPORT THE UNHCR'S STRATEGY, WE BELIEVE
OUR APPROACH NEEDS TO BE BROADER. AS USLO TRIPOLI POINTS
OUT, THIS ISSUE IS NOT LIBYA-SPECIFIC. THE GOL SEES IT AS
A MAJOR REGIONAL CONCERN WITH THE EUROPEANS PLAYING A
PRINCIPAL ROLE. THE STRATEGY SUGGESTED BY UNHCR'S
MEBTOUCHE WOULD NO DOUBT HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF SUCCESS IF
REINFORCED BY THE EUROPEANS. ITALY, IN PARTICULAR, HAS A
KEEN INTEREST IN THE ISSUE, HAVING RECENTLY REACHED
AGREEMENT WITH THE GOL AND WITH THE INTERNATIONAL
ORGANIZATION OF MIGRATION TO FACILITATE THE RETURN OF
ILLEGAL MIGRANTS. THE EUROPEANS AND THE LIBYANS BOTH RISK
INTERNATIONAL OPPROBRIUM IF THEY PROCEED WITH WHOLESALE
REPATRIATIONS WITHOUT TAKING STEPS TO AVOID POSSIBLE
REFOULEMENT. IDEALLY, THE NEED FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY
WOULD BE RESOLVED WITH LIBYAN ACCESSION TO THE 1951
CONVENTION. AS A SHORT-TERM MEASURE WE COULD ASK THE
EUROPEANS TO JOIN WITH US IN PRESSING THE GOL TO ENTER INTO
NEGOTIATIONS WITH UNHCR TO ESTABLISH THE TERMS OF AN MOU
THAT WOULD RECOGNIZE THE TRIPOLI UNHCR OFFICE AND GIVE IT
FULL ACCESS TO ASYLUM SEEKERS. AS USLO TRIPOLI NOTES,
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF OTHER COMPLEX ISSUES, WHICH WOULD
BENEFIT FROM ACTIVE UNHCR PARTICIPATION, SUCH AS ASSISTED
VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION AND COORDINATION WITH COUNTRY OF
ORIGIN SUB-SAHARAN GOVERNMENTS.



10. (SBU) ACTION REQUESTED: IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES WE
SUGGEST THAT THE DEPARTMENT APPROVE THE ABOVE PLAN OF
ACTION AND AUTHORIZE POSTS IN TRIPOLI, ROME, GENEVA (RMA),
BRUSSELS (EU), LONDON, AND CAIRO (REFCOORD) TO ENGAGE
APPROPRIATE HOST GOVERNMENTS AND EU COUNTERPARTS TO GAIN
SUPPORT FOR THE UNHCR IN TRIPOLI AS PER PARAGRAPHS 8-9.

GRAY