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06RABAT516 2006-03-23 10:28:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

OFFICIAL MOROCCAN VIEWS ON REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT,

Tags:   PREF PBTS PREL PHUM UNHCR PGOV MO EG 
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1. (C) Summary: Cairo-based Regional Refugee Coordinator
Gerard Cheyne met with GOM officials during his March 3-10
visit to Morocco and Western Sahara to discuss the
possibility of launching a limited resettlement program and
the CBM family visit exchanges occurring in the Western
Sahara. Cheyne met with MFA SYG Omar Hilale, MOI Governor
and Director of Migration and Border Security Khalid Zerouali
on March 3, and MOI Governor Coordinator for MINURSO Hamid
Chabar on March 6. GOM officials expressed concerns about
security issues and "magnetizing" Morocco for illegal
migrants, but agreed to a limited, targeted resettlement
program focusing on the most vulnerable and longest-standing
cases adjudicated by UNHCR (HCR). MFA SYG Hilale and MOI
Chabar expressed concerns about the family visit exchange
flights and UNHCR performance, but underscored continued GOM
support for these important means of building confidence
between the two sides. Cheyne told the GOM that any
resettlement program would be structured in such a way to
avoid producing a pull factor for Morocco (ref a). He also
explained that the U.S. strongly supported the continuation
of the CBM flights, but that U.S. funding for the family
visits would likely not reach previous levels. Cheyne
reiterated U.S. support for conducting a census in the
Tindouf camps. End summary.

GOM Supports Resettlement Program with Caveats


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

--



2. (C) Regional Refugee Coordinator Gerard Cheyne met March 3
with MFA Secretary General Omar Hilale. Participants in the
meeting included UNHCR Head of Mission Johannes Van Der
Klaauw, Beirut-based UNHCR Senior Regional Officer Arafat
Jamal, Australian Embassy in Cairo First Secretary Ross
Wilkie, MFA Director of International Organizations and UN
Affairs Nasser Bourita, and Poloffs. Later the same day,
Cheyne, Wilkie and Poloffs met with MOI Governor and Director
of Migration and Border Security Khalid Zerouali. Cheyne
explained to the GOM officials the two-fold purpose of his
visit: to explore the possibility of alleviating the
problems of the refugees in Morocco by developing a small
resettlement program with HCR and the GOM aimed at the most
vulnerable refugees and also to observe the UNHCR-managed
confidence-building measure family exchange visits in Western
Sahara.



3. (C) Reiterating remarks previously made to PolCouns (ref
b), Hilale told Cheyne that the GOM was in discussion with
HCR to address the situation of a "certain number" of people
currently in Morocco who "need protection," but who do not
qualify as refugees according to the GOM. As Morocco will
not recognize any asylum-seekers, the HCR should find a third
country in which to resettle these people. Hilale expressed
his appreciation to the U.S. and UNHCR for "burden-sharing,"
especially as Morocco had spent more than 90 million Euros on
this issue last fall which could have been better spent on
development projects for Moroccans. Hilale stressed that any
resettlement program should not be publicized so as not to
create a pull factor for Morocco. For this reason, recent
arrivals should not be considered for resettlement. Hilale
also warned of potential security risks created by letting
people be resettled elsewhere when Morocco cannot vouch for
their bona fides. He noted that the GOM was organizing a
European-African conference in July to try to find
comprehensive solutions to the migration issue.



4. (C) Cheyne told Hilale that the U.S. is sympathetic to the
issues raised including the potential for "magnetizing"
Morocco. For that reason, a program would be low-key,
transparent and focus only on the most vulnerable and
longest-standing cases. Van der Klauw reiterated that the
program would only target those migrants who have been here
the longest and have difficulty integrating into Moroccan

society.

GOM relations with UNHCR improving


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





5. (C) Hilale reiterated his (ref b) comments that GOM-UNHCR
relations had improved since Van der Klauw's arrival a few
months previous. After people organizing themselves as a
"military group using violence" had stormed the border of the
Spanish enclave of Ceuta last fall, the GOM was obliged to
take measures to repatriate almost 4000 illegal migrants. The
GOM had worked in close cooperation with UNHCR to ensure that
these people were repatriated with respect for international
conventions. MOI Zerouali echoed Hilale's comments that
cooperation with UNHCR had improved in recent months. HCR
and the GOM had worked well together during last fall's
"crisis" when an HCR team had come from Geneva to interview
migrants and the GOM had provided a plane for them to do so.
At the time, Zerouali said, HCR found that most of those
interviewed were economic migrants and did not qualify as
asylum-seekers.

GOM Desire for More than "Symbolic" IOM Assistance


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



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





6. (C) Once assessed, those who are economic migrants must
then be repatriated to their countries of origin, which
Morocco has done in cooperation with the International
Organization of Migration (IOM), Zerouali said. While the
IOM is a good organization, according to Zerouali, it is not
as active in Morocco as it could be. Often the issues
require a "quicker reaction" than the IOM can muster and the
contribution is largely "symbolic." For example, IOM paid
for one flight to return 120 Malians, while the GOM paid for
20 other repatriation flights. That said, the GOM would
continue to repatriate migrants primarily to send a message
to the "mafia" of traffickers that their activities will not
be tolerated in Morocco. He emphasized that the repatriation
procedures are always performed in accordance with
international standards. While Morocco has expertise in
these matters, it lacks resources.

Confidence Building Measures and Camps


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





7. (C) Cheyne met with MOI Governor-Coordinator for MINURSO
Hamid Chabar in Rabat on March 6 to discuss the CBM family
exchange visit program. While Chabar and MFA SYG Hilale
emphasized GOM support for the program, they both expressed
concerns regarding UNHCR's role and the program in general.
According to Hilale, the GOM supports the CBMs because they
give an opportunity for the people living in Tindouf to learn
that "Polisario propaganda is not true." The first tranche
of flights had gone well, but the Polisario is now using the
second tranche of flights for political purposes. The GOM
has conveyed its concern regarding the politicization of the
flights to UNHCR and has noted that if the flights do not
remain a humanitarian operation, Morocco may have to
reconsider its support. Chabar emphasized that the Moroccans
agreed to the CBMs in order to "alleviate the suffering" of
those in the camps. Eventually, UNHCR had had to discontinue
participant registration because of the overwhelming demand
in particular in the camps, said Chabar. However, as the GOM
considers the CBMs a "family reunification" program, the fact
that the Polisario is keeping family members "hostage" while
sending others on the flights poses a major problem for the
GOM. Morocco has requested several times that HCR review
their procedures as these kind of issues harm the credibility
of the program.



8. (C) Apart from the CBMs, Chabar noted that the GOM is also
concerned with UNHCR's mandate in the camps, including its
lack of solid numbers of refugees, its lack of presence and
the possible diversion of humanitarian assistance. After
thirty years, HCR needed to conduct a census to ensure the
proper protection of the population. It is an obligation for
donor countries to have accurate numbers for the camps,


according to Chabar. Hilale noted that the refugees in the
Tindouf camps are the only refugees in the world who have not
been counted and are not registered. Donor countries should
continue to pressure Algeria and the Polisario to reach the
truth.



9. (C) According to Chabar, another issue is UNHCR's
"absence" from the camps as its office is in Tindouf 40
kilometers away from the nearest camp and "surrounded by the
Polisario." Hilale also raised the issue of the protection
of the people living in the camps. While the GOM had
insisted on a permanent UNHCR presence in the camps during
the family visits, this had not yet occurred.



10. (C) Zerouali emphasized that the GOM was "counting" on
the U.S. to push UNHCR to be more present in the camps, to
undertake a census and to deal with the rampant
"embezzlement" taking place. HCR should also carefully
review the food distribution procedures to ensure that
humanitarian assistance is not going to "criminals and
terrorists" in the area. According to Hilale, several
organizations including the EU and WFP had conducted
investigations and had reached the same conclusion: that the
assistance is being diverted. In all three meetings with the
GOM, RefCoord emphasized that the U.S. strongly supported the
CBM family exchanges, and agreed on the need for a census in
the camps and better control of the food distribution.
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