US embassy cable - 06MUSCAT687

SOMALI MIGRANTS: SMALL PROBLEM, BUT INCREASING IRRITANT

Identifier: 06MUSCAT687
Wikileaks: View 06MUSCAT687 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Muscat
Created: 2006-05-02 05:27:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: SMIG PREF PGOV PREL PINR SO MU International Relations
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 000687 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI, PRM, AF/E 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: SMIG, PREF, PGOV, PREL, PINR, SO, MU, International Relations 
SUBJECT: SOMALI MIGRANTS: SMALL PROBLEM, BUT INCREASING 
IRRITANT 
 
 
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SUMMARY 
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1. (U) Somali migrants infiltrating Oman from Yemen or by 
sea, often engaged in unskilled labor but sometimes accused 
of theft and confrontations with police, have sparked calls 
for government action from angry local residents and farmers 
in Southern Oman.  Army patrols and police checkpoints have 
been successful in reducing their numbers (estimated now to 
be in the low hundreds), but some Omanis are pressing the 
government to address the roots of the problem with Yemeni 
and Somali officials.  End Summary. 
 
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Somali Migrants Overstay Welcome 
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2. (U) Given the geographic proximity and Oman's colonial 
legacy in East Africa, ties between Oman and Somalia have a 
long history.  Somalis still occupy a few prominent positions 
in government and society (including a past deputy governor 
of Dhofar and the current general manager of Bank Dhofar), 
but for the most part they have led a quiet existence on the 
fringe of society in Oman's southern Dhofar region, primarily 
harvesting frankincense or engaged in artisanal fishing. 
 
3. (U) The Somali presence in Dhofar emerged as a 
sociopolitical issue in 2003 when their increased presence, 
stemming largely from Somali refugee camps in neighboring 
Yemen, began to be noticed on the streets of Salalah, the 
region's largest city.  At that time, a number of Omani 
families complained about Somali men and women begging 
door-to-door for food and water, though many local residents 
charitably provided them food and shelter and saw them as no 
threat. 
 
4. (U) By spring of 2004, local Dhofaris started reporting 
incidents of minor theft and violence, including the theft 
and slaughter of cows and camels at local farms.  In an 
effort to purge Somali hideouts and halt the incoming flow of 
illegal migrants, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) Criminal 
Investigations Department established a series of checkpoints 
in the region to verify identification and close off Somali 
infiltration.  According to local sources, the impact of the 
security measures was felt immediately, and the Somali 
presence began to decrease drastically in Salalah.  Some 
migrants, however, were able to elude authorities as they 
moved into more remote desert areas either up the Omani 
coast, or inland toward Oman's desert frontier with Saudi 
Arabia and Yemen. 
 
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Halting The Flow of Illegal Migrants 
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5. (SBU) The Royal Army of Oman Border Security Command is 
the agency primarily responsible for land border security 
along the Omani border with Yemen.  Other entities, such as 
the ROP and the Sultan's Special Force, have also aided in 
apprehending illegal migrants traversing the tri-border area 
of Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.  An ROP contact in the 
region informed Poloff that some Somalis, even after being 
handed over to Yemeni border officials, quickly reappeared in 
Oman; both Omani and Yemeni nationals were believed to be 
aiding their transit.  He added that a new deportation 
facility will be built near the current ROP station in 
Salalah to accommodate detained Somalis before their 
deportation to Yemen.  (Note:  According to a Somali embassy 
representative in Muscat, there are currently about 200 
Somalis being detained in Salalah while awaiting issuance of 
laissez-passer documents in June for repatriation to Somalia. 
 End Note.)  In an effort to avoid deportation, some migrants 
have resisted arrest or claimed to arresting officers to be 
HIV positive.  When taken to a local hospital, these claims 
have been proven false. 
 
6. (SBU) After a group of local residents recently 
encountered some illegal Somali migrants on a farm, the topic 
of Somali "infiltrators" caused a stir on the popular 
Internet message board "al-Sablah."  Although the commander 
of the Sultan's Special Force confirms that the number of 
Somali migrants in Dhofar is negligible, the topic 
nonetheless generated over 1500 hits and almost 40 responses 
that, for the most part, criticize the government's handling 
of the Somali "problem."  Respondents urged the government to 
take action to "stop this dangerous phenomenon because it may 
lead to increased crime."  Some sympathetic respondents felt 
that Omanis should show compassion to the migrants since they 
are poor and homeless.  Most respondents agreed, however, 
that the government needs to develop more comprehensive 
solutions and should cooperate with Somali and Yemeni 
entities to address the roots of the problem. 
 
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Comment 
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7. (SBU) Despite concern on the part of some Dhofar 
residents, reports from ROP officials and the Sultan's 
Special Force suggest that the number of illegal Somali 
migrants either crossing over from Yemen or coming ashore has 
decreased considerably as a result of recent sweeps by Omani 
military and police units.  Most estimates place the number 
of Somalis currently in southern Oman in the low hundreds, at 
most.  The region continues to bear watching, however, as 
routes used by illegal migrants are always vulnerable to 
exploitation by more nefarious groups, including those in 
Yemen and Somalia. 
GRAPPO 

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