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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05KINGSTON623
2005-03-04 22:31:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Kingston
Cable title:  

GOJ, IOM, AND UNHCR AGREE MOST HAITIAN MIGRANTS

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  SMIG  HA  JM 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KINGSTON 000623 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CAR (BENT) AND PRM/ECA (IRIS)
SOUTHCOM FOR J7 (POLAD AND RHANNAN)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/4/15
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SMIG HA JM
SUBJECT: GOJ, IOM, AND UNHCR AGREE MOST HAITIAN MIGRANTS
ARE ECONOMIC MIGRANTS, AS 58 MORE LAND IN JAMAICA

REF: 04 KINGSTON 02193

Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Mark J. Powell. Reasons 1.5(b) and (d).

-------
Summary
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1. (SBU) Just after dawn on March 4, a boatload of 58
Haitians arrived in Long Bay, Portland, raising the total of
Haitian migrants in Jamaica to 496. During a week which
began with the one-year anniversary of former President
Aristide's resignation and departure from Haiti, the GOJ
continues to wrestle with its migrant problem. In a renewed
influx preceding the March 4 arrivals, some 159 Haitians
landed in Jamaica between February 8 and February 19. GOJ,
IOM and UNHCR officials with whom we have spoken agree that
most of the migrants have come in search of economic
opportunities, although UNHCR faults the GOJ's handling of
some asylum request cases. For its part, the Ministry of
National Security sees quick repatriation of economic
migrants to discourage additional Haitians from making the
dangerous trip to Jamaica. End Summary.



2. (SBU) At approximately 0630 local on March 4, a boatload
of 58 Haitians arrived in Long Bay, Portland, raising the
total number of Haitian migrants in Jamaica to 496. The
period February 8 to February 19 saw an influx of five
separate groups of Haitian migrants who arrived in Jamaica by
sea. Six arrived on 2/8; seven on 2/11; 31 on 2/13; 58 on
2/16 and 57 on 2/19. GOJ Inter-agency Haitian Migrants
Coordinator Paul Saunders told Pol/Econ Chief on March 2 that
Jamaica hosts 332 at the former Jamaica Defense Force (JDF)
base at Montepelier, St. James, and 116 at the Winifred Rest
Home in Portland. (Note: This conversation took place two
days before a boatload of 58 more Haitians arrived in
Portland. End note.) A Haitian boy was born in one of the
camps on February 26, and a Haitian male residing at
Montpelier camp who had been working in a local garage as a
mechanic, was murdered along with his Jamaican boss by
Jamaican gunmen at the garage on February 22. Saunders said
that while the Jamaican victim may have been a disreputable
character who had a falling out with the gunmen, the Haitian
victim seems to have been in the wrong place at the wrong
time.



3. (C) Saunders readily characterized most of the Haitians as
economic migrants, noting that one man who had been
voluntarily repatriated to Haiti in late 2004 has now
returned (by boat) to Jamaica with his wife and six children.
Saunders said he happened to be in Portland on February 16
when 58 Haitians arrived, and had noted that some of the
Haitians came ashore bearing French/English dictionaries,
pots and pans, and other amenities that suggested that "they
did not flee in the middle of the night." In order to
discourage economic migrants from Haiti, said Saunders, the
GOJ should quickly process asylum cases and return to Haiti
any migrants who did not qualify "within 24 or 48 hours."

The Coordinator expressed frustration at the conduct of a
number of the migrants who have intentionally damaged
toilets, broken light bulbs and who fight among themselves.
Saunders acknowledged that such misbehavior could in part be
attributed to migrants' boredom due to a lack of structured
activities in the camps, but he complained that migrants are
comfortable enough to complain (unreasonably, he implied)
about GOJ-provided clothing and food, which he added meets or
exceeds UNHCR minimum standards. He also admitted that the
GOJ has turned a blind eye on the employment issue, allowing
Haitians to work in the communities near the camp.



4. (SBU) According to Saunders, the GOJ has sufficient
resources to accommodate the Haitians thanks to UNHCR funding
which expires on March 31, but he worried that additional
arrivals could change this equation. Saunders added that the
GOJ has written to UNHCR/Geneva to request a funding
extension through June. The Migrant Coordinator said he has
been asked to remain in that position until June before
returning to his senior position with the GOJ's Office of
Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM). He
said that MNS Permanent Secretary Gil Scott would like for
all appeals to be heard, and all migrants who do not qualify
for asylum repatriated by June.



5. (C) Asked to describe the process by which migrants are
considered for asylum, Saunders said that Jamaican
immigration officers conduct initial interviews, then pass
cases on to the GOJ's Eligibility Committee, which consists
of representatives from the Ministry of National Security
(MNS), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
(MFAFT), and the Attorney General's office. The Eligibility
Committee either approves or denies a petition for asylum,
and those refused can appeal the decision to a Tribunal
consisting of a retired judge and two retired ambassadors.



6. (SBU) IOM Chief of Mission Nidia Casati told poloff on
February 28 that there were differing views between and
within the MFAFT and MNS as to how to handle the migrants.
Senior MFAFT officials want the GOJ to be seen as &helping
the poor migrants8, she said, while others within the MFAFT
and MNS would like to have them expeditiously repatriated.
Many migrants are working on the local economy without
proper work permits or other legal documentation and come and
go at will as the curfew is not enforced. Casati noted that
many of the migrants allegedly take their US$50 repatriation
grant and pay smugglers to return them to Jamaica. They then
work on the local economy but do not put the money back into
it as everything is provided for them at the camp.



7. (SBU) Casati went on to state that UNHCR expects to cease
funding at the end of March and that perhaps this would be
the encouragement the GOJ needs to repatriate the Haitians.
Most of the violence within the camps, she said, is between
the Haitians and for the most part does not involve
Jamaicans. Over the past several months there have not been
any reports of guard abuse, as was the case in 2004 in which
a Jamaica Constabulary Force officer assigned to guard duty
at Montpelier allegedly molested a teenage Haitian boy .
Casati described most of the Haitians as economic migrants
and stated that several of them readily admit that they are
earning a better living in Jamaica than in Haiti. With
regard to the repatriation process, she said that it is
extremely slow and unnecessarily so. She complained that the
retired officials on the GOJ Eligibility Committee panel take
their time processing the cases because there is no pressure
to move the cases along.



8. (SBU) Sandrine Desamours, a Santo Domingo-based UNHCR
legal officer, arrived in Kingston on March 2 for a
weeks-long review of the migrant situation. In a March 3
meeting with Jamaican honorary UNHCR liaison Clover Graham
and P/E Chief, Desamours and Graham largely concurred with
Saunders' contention that nearly all of the Haitians are
economic migrants. Desamours did, however, express concern
with the GOJ's handling of some of the asylum cases. She
said that in some instances, members of the Eligibility
Committee had noted applicants' accounts of politically
motivated threats, and/or murders of close relatives, then
dismissed the applicants as economic migrants without
explaining how they determined that the threats were
baseless. Desamours said that she would follow up with the
GOJ regarding these cases. Neither Desamours nor Graham
thought that UNHCR was likely to agree to extend funding for
Jamaica from March 31 until June, although they added that
Geneva would have to make that decision.



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


Comment


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





9. (C) As the one-year anniversary of Aristide's resignation
and departure from Haiti passed earlier this week, the GOJ
continues to wrestle with a Haitian migrant problem. The
GOJ, IOM and UNHCR agree that most of the Haitians are
economic migrants rather than political refugees. Caught
between its desire to "do the right thing" and the
realization that most of the Haitians seek economic
opportunity, some in the GOJ see expeditious repatriation of
those not qualifying for asylum as the best course. The
latest arrivals may well prompt the GOJ to adopt such a
policy.
ROBINSON