Cablegate: Monitoring and Evaluating Icmc's Legal and Social

Published: Thu 5 Jun 2003 02:44 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: 02 STATE 195205
1. Embassy Beirut cleared this message.
2. As requested reftel, Regional Refcoord monitored the
International Catholic Migration Commission's (ICMC) legal
and social protection project on May 13, 2003. Report is
keyed to questions provided reftel.
A. On May 13, refcoord and Embassy Beirut poloff met with
ICMC Forced Migration Specialist Jim Kelly and
Caritas/Lebanon Migrants Center Director Najla Chahda.
Beirut-based Kelly serves as Program Manager, in addition to
his broader ICMC responsibilities in the Middle East and
North Africa. Chahda serves as project coordinator, in
addition to her overall management responsibilities at the
Migrants Center.
B. ICMC has not implemented the project as outlined in the
cooperative agreement. ICMC cites changes in UNHCR's Lebanon
staff and a greatly improved protection environment as its
reasons for not implementing the project as planned (see para
D for details). Based on discussions with ICMC staff, it
appears that ICMC's focus on helping Caritas establish a new
migrants center (which was partially funded by this project)
and helping its other regional partners develop contingency
plans for a crisis in Iraq also contributed to the delays.
Given recent events in Iraq, ICMC and UNHCR have proposed
that the project be refocused to assist UNHCR in its planned
voluntary repatriation program for Iraqis resident in
Lebanon. Details of the proposed new activities are provided
in para H. Refcoord and Embassy Beirut support ICMC's
C. ICMC reports that it spent the first six months of the
cooperative agreement trying to negotiate terms of reference
with UNHCR, identifying new space for Caritas Lebanon's
Migrants Center and then hiring and training new staff -- one
project officer and two social workers. The three staff
members began work on March 1, 2003 and by mid-May had
conducted counseling sessions for only six families. ICMC
has not conducted any orientation sessions or provided legal
assistance under this cooperative agreement. ICMC has spent
between 10 and 15 percent of the grant. (ICMC said specific
financial reporting was included in its interim report to
D. ICMC reports that changes in UNHCR/Lebanon staff required
ICMC to reopen discussions on the project in October 2002.
ICMC claims that former UNHCR/Lebanon Representative Rafik
Saidi had agreed to the project but that new UNHCR
Representative Mustapha Djemali had not been briefed on the
project. (Comment: Given that Djemali assumed his
responsibilities in January 2002, it is unclear why ICMC had
not briefed UNHCR on the proposed project prior to PRM's
funding decision in September 2002.) At the same time,
however, UNHCR repaired its previously poor relationship with
the Government of Lebanon and improved conditions for asylum
seekers, including a reduction in the waiting time for
refugee status determination (RSD) from one year to six
months and an end to deportations of individuals of concern
to UNHCR. UNHCR reportedly told ICMC that the PRM-funded
project no longer fit the new, improved protection
environment in Lebanon. (Note: While these discussions with
UNHCR were underway, ICMC also was implementing three other
new projects, funded by the European Commission, G/TIP and
PRM. Embassy Beirut and refcoord suspect ICMC simply may
have taken on more projects and new funding than it could
ICMC admits that it put this project's implementation on hold
in January 2003, as regional tensions grew and humanitarian
agencies -- including ICMC -- began to plan for a crisis in
Iraq. When UNHCR stopped refugee status determinations for
Iraqis in March 2003, the project's prime beneficiary pool --
Iraqi asylum seekers -- evaporated and UNHCR RSD processing
time was reduced to just one week. ICMC did not keep
refcoord or Embassy Beirut informed of these developments,
nor did it provide an interim report to PRM by the required
February 15 deadline. (ICMC claims that the report was
submitted to PRM/Compt in April 2003.) Refcoord requested an
update on the project in late April 2003.
E. ICMC has five staff working on this project. ICMC Forced
Migration Specialist Kelly (who should spend 20 percent of
his time on this project), Caritas Migrant Center Director
Chahda (who should spend 25 percent of her time on this
project), one full-time project coordinator; two full-time
social workers, one full-time receptionist and one janitor
(75 percent of his salary is paid by this project). Given
that the project has assisted only six families, the
personnel are far from fully and gainfully employed.
F. ICMC's project is run from Caritas' brand-new Migrants
Center. The center is spacious and well-equipped with new
furniture and furnishings, all of which appear to be in
working condition. Classrooms and four offices were equipped
and furnished by this grant and are tracked by an acceptable
inventory control system.
G. N/A
H. ICMC believes -- and UNHCR agrees -- that the project as
outlined in the cooperative agreement no longer serves any
useful purpose, as the protection environment in Lebanon has
been significantly improved by greater UNHCR-GOL cooperation
(including a new MOU awaiting approval by the GOL), a
reduction in RSD processing time and a reduction in the
population of concern to UNHCR, thanks to regime change in
Iraq. UNHCR informed ICMC and refcoord that it needs
assistance in the voluntary repatriation of the estimated
30,000 Iraqis resident in Lebanon and would like to see the
current project refocused on Iraqi returns. Specifically,
UNHCR and ICMC have proposed that the project be recast to
-- Orientation sessions for returning Iraqis, including
registration on behalf of UNHCR, an explanation of the return
process and requirements, preparation of handouts explaining
the return process, as well as screening of prospective
-- Information/communication services to inform prospective
returnees of current conditions and employment prospects in
Iraq. ICMC could tap into planned Caritas and Catholic
Relief Services programming inside Iraq to obtain up-to-date
information about Iraq.
-- Family counseling, focusing on more difficult return cases
such as vulnerable individuals or individuals without
Based on May 12 discussions with UNHCR Representative Djemali
and Senior Regional Durable Solutions Officer Mohammed
Hantoush, Refcoord is confident that UNHCR supports ICMC's
proposal and is ready to facilitate its efforts. UNHCR
already has asked ICMC to begin assisting UNHCR in its
registration process for prospective Iraqi returnees.
Whatever bad relations may have existed previously between
UNHCR and ICMC seem to have been resolved. Moreover, ICMC's
successful implementation of PRM's other Lebanon project
(assistance for vulnerable Iraqis, reported septel) indicates
that ICMC has the capacity to implement projects even though
its performance on this project has been disappointing.
Given UNHCR and PRM's upcoming focus on assisting Iraqi
returns, refocusing this project as proposed by ICMC seems to
be a logical solution that will further PRM's regional policy
goals. ICMC plans to submit a no-cost extension request,
detailing its proposed new activities and any necessary
budget revisions, with a planned end date of December 31,
2003, and is in discussions with partners Catholic Relief
Services and International Orthodox Christian Charities to
ensure the project fits into larger regional return plans.
Embassy Beirut notes that several hundred Iraqis have already
returned to Iraq from Lebanon and many others are requesting
assistance to do so. Embassy Beirut and refcoord therefore
recommend that PRM approve ICMC,s request to refocus the
project on Iraqi returns.
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