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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08DAMASCUS477 2008-07-06 16:02:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Damascus
Cable title:  

FOLEY MEETINGS WITH INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS,

Tags:   PREL PGOV PHUM SY 
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ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 061602Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5150
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5151
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 0636
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 000477 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, PRM

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/02/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SY
SUBJECT: FOLEY MEETINGS WITH INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS,
NGOS, AND DONOR REPS IN DAMASCUS

REF: DAMASCUS 453



1. (C) Summary: In June 23-26 meetings with UNHCR, IOM, WFP,
UNICEF, donor country representatives, and other
organizations workings on Iraqi refugee assistance and
resettlement issues in Syria, Senior Coordinator for Iraqi
Refugee Issues, Ambassador James Foley heard: (1) Iraqis in
Syria continued to be anxious about their visa status. The
SARG had pledged not to deport Iraqis already in Syria, but
it currently is issuing visa extensions on a month-to-month
basis; (2) WFP and UNHCR reported the opening and operation
of food distribution sites after a one-month hiatus; (3) WFP
had received provisional SARG permission for establishing a
food voucher program, and told us it would be seeking
additional funding to meet 2008 budget shortfalls; (4) Donor
country reps in Syria supported continuing pressure on GOI to
donate more refugee assistance. Some argued for direct
bilateral assistance to the SARG. End Summary.

Iraqi Anxieties About Visa Status


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





2. (C) On June 24 Ambassador Foley met with Phillipe LeClerc
and the UNHCR assistance and resettlement team to discuss
assistance issues and the "bottom-line" budgetary needs of
UNHCR. Foley also met with six Iraqi outreach workers from
UNHCR who described their assessment of the Iraqi population
in Syria. Some participants expressed their distrust for the
Malki government and stated that they would not return to
Iraq under the current GOI.



3. (C) UNHCR reps emphasized the growing anxiety of Iraqis
due to the their ambiguous legal status in Syria. Iraqis with
children were given extended visas set to expire on June 30,
the end of the academic year. The SARG had indicated to UNHCR
officials that it would extend visas on a month-by-month
basis until September, after which longer extensions "may be
possible." UNHCR was pressing the SARG for clarity about when
the SARG would honor its commitment to extend visas to
parents of Iraqi school children for the upcoming academic
year.

World Food Program (WFP) Set to Rollout Voucher Program


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





4. (SBU) WFP representative Pippa Bradford briefed Foley on
the growing need for food assistance support. The rise of
food prices and the economic situation in Syria had adversely
affected WFP acquisition of staple foods(rice and grains).
Bradford announced that WFP had obtained provisional
permission from the SARG to establish a voucher program
through state-run grocery stores in Damascus. She believed
vouchers would dramatically cut acquisition and
transportation costs to WFP, while providing refugees with a
broader range of food products as well as the in-kind
assistance provided by USG.

UNHCR Unveiled Registration and Food Distribution Site


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





5. (SBU) On June 25, Foley visited the new UNHCR
Registration Center and Food Distribution Center in Dumaar,
where Iraqi refugees interview for refugee status, receive
medical treatment, and collect a two month WFP food packet.
UNHCR food distribution sites had been on hiatus for the
previous month, after the closing of the central Damascus
distribution in April. Operations at the new site appeared to
be running smoothly as refugees filed in and out of the site
by UNHCR provided transportation, or waited in the spacious
and child-friendly waiting areas.



6. (SBU) UNHCR expected to register 270,000 refugees by the
end of 2008 through UNHCR mobile registration drives and the
registration site in Dumaar. The dual registration and food
distribution center was also designed to be easily converted
from a registration site into a resettlement site when
conditions in Iraq become hospitable to facilitate returning
the refugees to Iraq.

Donor Country Ambassadors Talk Assistance and Resettlement


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





7. (C) CDA Corbin and Ambassador Foley hosted a frank

DAMASCUS 00000477 002 OF 002


dialogue with donor country representatives from Japan, UK,
Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and
Iraq. Foley recapped his meeting with D/FM Miqdad the
previous day, and stressed the U.S. commitment to providing
assistance to meet Iraqi humanitarian needs. He urged donor
countries to do more to help meet the need of the Iraqi
refugee populations in Syria and acknowledged the $15 million
contribution by GOI.



8. (C) The German Ambassador criticized USG sanctions on
Syria for undercutting the economic growth of Syria and
thereby having a negative impact on the Iraqi refugee
population. He argued that a healthy Syrian economy was
essential for providing better opportunities for the Iraqi
refugees in the country. Other representatives, including the
Japanese and the EU Ambassadors, called for both bilateral
and multilateral assistance to SARG and said they were trying
to balance their engagement between these two tracks. The
Japanese Ambassador argued that his government could resettle
six thousand refugees from Syria by the next fiscal year.
Participants from the British, Danish, and Norwegian
Embassies discussed the merits of ascertaining the "real"
number of Iraqi refugees in Syria, and generally agreed that
priority should be givent to assessing the needs of the most
vulnerable refugees.

International Medical Corps/ Syrian Arab Red Crescent
(IMC/SARC) Clinic Visit


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





9. (SBU) Foley and his delegation visited an IMC/SARC clinic
in Sayyed az-Zaynab, an underprivileged suburb of Damascus
that hosts a large cross-section of Iraqi and Palestinian
refugees. The small clinic provided a wide variety of medical
and dental services to Iraqi refugees and some Syrians. The
clinic director described the need for more medical
equipment, preferably from the U.S., to provide greater care
for patients with cancer and heart complications.

UNICEF Seeks Programs to Benefit Iraqi and Syrian Students


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





10. (SBU) CDA Corbin and Ambassador Foley welcomed UNICEF
representative in Syria Sherazade Boualia. Boualia said she
was eager to work with U.S. refugee programs that would
benefit Iraqi and Syrian students. She raised the educational
environment in Syria and underscored the concerns of many
parents of school age children regarding the extension of
visas until the beginning of the new school year in September.


CORBIN