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WikiLeaks: 2008-11-26: 08BEIRUT1688: Lebanon: Iraqi Chaldean Refugees Suffering in Lebanon

by WikiLeaks. 08BEIRUT1688: November 26, 2008.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:54 PM UT


Viewing cable 08BEIRUT1688, LEBANON: IRAQI CHALDEAN REFUGEES SUFFERING IN

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BEIRUT1688 2008-11-26 14:25 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
VZCZCXRO0367
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHLB #1688/01 3311425
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261425Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3672
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3208
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3418
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001688 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR NEA/FO AND NEA/ELA 
ALSO FOR PRM FOR ACTING A/S WITTEN 
IO A/S HOOK AND PDAS WARLICK 
P FOR DRUSSELL AND RRANGASWAMY 
AMMAN FOR RUSTY INGRAHAM 
BAGHDAD FOR SR COORDINATOR FOR REFUGEES AND IDPS RICHARD 
ALBRIGHT 
USUN FOR KHALILZAD/WOLFF/GERMAIN/SCHEDLBAUER 
NSC FOR ABRAMS/RAMCHAND/YERGER/MCDERMOTT 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PINR PREF IQ LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: IRAQI CHALDEAN REFUGEES SUFFERING IN 
LEBANON 
 
REF: BEIRUT 952 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison for reasons 1.4 
(b) and (d). 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (C) In a November 25 meeting with the Ambassador, Chaldean 
Archbishop Michel Kassarji spoke of the challenges facing the 
5,000 Iraqi Christian refugees in Lebanon, including child 
labor, minimal education opportunities, and inability to find 
skilled employment.  While the GOL has grown more 
understanding in the past year and a number of NGOs and his 
church provide assistance, Kassarji assessed that these 
service providers are meeting only 35 percent of the needs of 
Iraqi Christian refugee community.  Kassarji confessed that 
he had originally falsely assumed the Iraqi Christians wanted 
to return to Iraq, when in fact, he said, he learned they are 
afraid and believe the situation will not improve anytime 
soon.  Kassarji expressed a fear that Iraqi refugees in 
Jordan and Syria will relocate to Lebanon, believing Beirut 
offers greater economic opportunities.  In addition to his 
church's future plans to aid the Iraqi Christians, Kassarji 
suggested the U.S. provide assistance to these refugees in 
Lebanon and encourage the GOL to do the same.  End summary. 
 
CHALDEAN POPULATION EXPLODED 
WITH ARRIVAL OF IRAQI REFUGEES 
------------------------------ 
 
2. (C) The Ambassador, accompanied by PolOff, met with 
Chaldean Archbishop Michel Kassarji at the Chaldean church in 
Brazilia on November 25.  Retired General Michel Kasdano and 
another volunteer from the Beirut Chaldean Bishopric also 
attended the meeting.  Noting that the permanent Lebanese 
Chaldean population numbers 10,000, Kassarji remarked on the 
volume of Iraqi Christians now living in Lebanon, which he 
estimated to be 5,000, and approximately 4,500 of these are 
Chaldean.  Not all of these refugees register with UNHCR.  He 
further estimated that 300,000 Iraqi Christians have left 
Iraq since 2003. 
 
DIFFICULTIES WORKING, 
ATTENDING SCHOOL 
--------------------- 
 
3. (C) According to Kassarji, only one-third of the Iraqi 
Christian refugee children in Lebanon attend school because 
they need to earn money for their families.  He said child 
labor was a big problem, and many of the children were 
exploited by working 12 hours daily, with little to no rest, 
and receiving meager wages.  He said the children also faced 
problems attending school because of a difference in 
education levels and because the Iraqis studied previously in 
Arabic, whereas the Lebanese system is English- or 
French-based.  The men, regardless of the educational 
background and work experience, can only get manual labor 
jobs because they are considered by the GOL to be in Lebanon 
illegally. 
 
4. (C) Kassarji characterized the Iraqi Christian refugees as 
primarily intact families or widows and their children, with 
many physically disabled or mentally disturbed individuals. 
Approximately 70 percent of the Iraqi Christians live in the 
Sad al Boushrieh neighborhood in eastern Beirut. 
 
CONDITIONS HAVE IMPROVED; 
MAJORITY OF NEEDS REMAIN UNMET 
------------------------------ 
 
5. (C) Kassarji assessed that the lives of Iraqi Christian 
refugees have improved over the past year, which he 
attributed to his church's media campaign.  He explained that 
he had been promoting their cause as "minorities threatened 
 
BEIRUT 00001688  002 OF 002 
 
 
in Iraq."  He said framing it in this way, rather than "the 
plight of the refugees" resonated better with the GOL and 
that it has since "listened more."  (Note:  Calling the 
Iraqis "refugees" hits too close to home in Lebanon, which 
supports with a population of 400,000 Palestinian refugees. 
End note.)  Previously, he continued, the GOL was deporting 
the Iraqi Christian refugees back to Iraq.  Surete Generale, 
the GOL authority responsible for immigration matters, 
continues to detain those lacking legal status, and he noted 
that 528 Iraqi Christians were currently in detention 
(reftel). 
 
6. (C) Listing the services his church provides for the 
refugees, including covering emergency medical bills, 
Kassarji said it is not nearly enough.  He estimated that the 
NGOs assisting the Iraqis in Lebanon meet only 35 percent of 
their needs.  He relayed his church's plans to build a 
social/medical center and a regular/technical school to 
accommodate the Iraqi Christians in Beirut. 
 
THEY DO NOT WANT 
TO RETURN TO IRAQ 
----------------- 
 
7. (C) "No one wants to return," Kassarji stated 
definitively, adding, "There is no safe place in Iraq and 
they do not trust the Iraqi army."  He expressed his personal 
hope that the refugees would one day return to Iraq, but 
asserted that it was not safe for them today.  He committed 
to helping the Iraqi Christians until they were able to 
return.  (Comment:  We had been hearing, namely from Syriac 
League SYG Habib Efram, that the Iraqis wanted to return. 
That assessment may reflect the view by some interested 
Lebanese Christians that it is better for the Iraqi 
Christians to return to preserve an Iraqi Christian identity, 
just as they strive to preserve their own Lebanese Christian 
presence.  End comment.) 
 
8. (C) Kassarji confessed that he was unaware of the true 
aspirations of the refugees until they reacted to his 
church's campaigning efforts calling for their return.  He 
said he received a letter from a refugee expressing anger and 
explaining that he did not feel safe to return and did not 
have hope that things for Chaldeans would improve in Iraq. 
 
NUMBERS MAY INCREASE AS REFUGEES 
IN JORDAN, SYRIA COULD RELOCATE 
-------------------------------- 
 
9. (C) Noting that Lebanon has significantly fewer Iraqi 
Christian refugees than neighboring Jordan and Syria, 
Kassarji speculated that tight labor markets and rising rents 
could push Iraqis into Lebanon.  He said many already cross 
the border from  Syria to Lebanon illegally. 
 
HOW THE U.S. CAN HELP 
--------------------- 
 
10. (C) Relaying that he had met with Interior Minister Ziad 
Baroud and Maronite Patriarch Sfeir on this issue, Kassarji 
suggested it would be helpful if the Ambassador raised the 
issue with PM Fouad Siniora and the Patriarch.  He relayed 
that he found Sfeir to be "unhelpful."  He appealed to the 
Ambassador for assistance in meeting the refugees' needs in 
Lebanon.  In Iraq, Kassarji suggested the establishment of a 
safe haven that is protected militarily and through a UN 
resolution. 
 
11.  Note: In 2008, DHS teams working at Embassy Beirut have 
processed 1,217 cases (2,503 individuals) of Iraqi refugees 
in Lebanon for resettlement in the United States.  DHS tells 
us it expects to send teams back to Embassy Beirut and 
process at least 2,000 cases during 2009.  End Note. 
 
SISON

 



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