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Cablegate: Gocr Fears That Lax Ecuador Visa Policy Is Fueling

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0882/01 3172209
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 122209Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0256
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 1351
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 0166
RHEFHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0149
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000882

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/AND, WHA/PPC, EAP/CM AND CA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/12/2018
TAGS: PREL PTER ASEC CVIS KCRM KFRD EC KTIP CS
SUBJECT: GOCR FEARS THAT LAX ECUADOR VISA POLICY IS FUELING
ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

Classified By: DCM Peter M. Brennan for reason 1.4(d).

--------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) "Ecuador is causing instability for all America" since
it dropped its tourist visa requirements for all
nationalities in June, according to Mario Zamora, head of the
GOCR General Directorate of Immigration (DGI, Spanish
acronym). GOCR Immigration officials that traveled to
Ecuador in October reported that approximately 10,000 Chinese
had entered Ecuador over the last four months. Zamora feared
that these Chinese were heading for Costa Rica and for the
United States and that many could fall victim to forced labor
trafficking or human smuggling "coyotaje." Some had applied
for Costa Rican permanent residency in Beijing and then asked
that their notification be sent to them in Ecuador,
suggesting the beginning of an organized fraud pattern.
Zamora told us that flights from Ecuador through Costa Rica
(a TACA Airlines hub for flights headed north) had become
"very cosmopolitan," and he feared an influx of irregular
migration of Eastern Europeans, Arabs, South Americans and
Africans. END SUMMARY.

------------------------------------------
CHINESE: INCREASED NUMBERS; POSSIBLE FRAUD
------------------------------------------

2. (C) The DGI became concerned recently when officials
noticed a pattern among non-related Chinese "family
reunification" residency petitions. Approximately 10 to 15
cases surfaced, involving young males aged 17 to 20, in which
the applicants filed petitions in Beijing to come to Costa
Rica, but requested that status notifications be sent to
Ecuador. Zamora admitted that it did not make sense for
Chinese to await Costa Rican residency in Ecuador, and he
offered as hypotheses that an organized fraud ring was
smuggling or trafficking Chinese, or that such a ring was
arranging valid residencies for Chinese but then using the
documents for impostors waiting in Ecuador. Zamora,
following a policy of "caution and prevention," dispatched
two officials to Quito last month to reinforce training for
GOCR consuls and to meet with Ecuadorian and Chinese
officials. The DGI halted the above-mentioned residency
cases; the applicants will have to reapply under tighter
documentary requirements, including signatures of both
parents on application forms, and GOCR consuls in Beijing and
Quito will take a closer look at the underlying Chinese
documents, such as birth certificates, for evidence of fraud.

3. (C) According to a DGI report provided to us, Ecuadorian
Immigration Director Luis Ordonez Sanchez told the GOCR DGI
that between June 20 and the October meeting, 10,748 Chinese
had entered Ecuador and 4826 of those had departed,
compared to 2007 statistics showing only 4776 Chinese entries
and 4417 departures. Ordonez reported that even with those
statistics, it was too early to determine the positive or
negative effect that dropping the visa requirement had, even
though officials were aware that many of the Chinese were
looking to the U.S. as their final destination. Ordonez said
that the measure was designed to increase tourism, investment
and trade, as well as to "increase the free movement of
people into and out of the country."

4. (C) According to the DGI report, in a separate meeting
with Chinese Political Counselor in Ecuador Gu Jiafeng, Gu
told DGI officials that the majority of Chinese who had
entered since June 20 came from the poorest provinces, Fujian
and Guadong, and the Chinese government was concerned that
they would fall victim to trafficking and smuggling rings in
Ecuador. Gu reportedly said that only a third had departed
Ecuador "regularly" and that the rest stayed in Ecuador or
sought to go illegally to Brazil, Colombia, Peru or to their
most desired destination - the United States.

-----------------------------------
FLIGHTS FROM ECUADOR "COSMOPOLITAN"
-----------------------------------

5. (C) Zamora noted that daily flights arriving to San Jose
from Ecuador had recently become "very cosmopolitan" and were
receiving more scrutiny. Before, these flights carried more

"local" clientele but now included many South Americans and
Eastern Europeans, among others. Zamora explained that San
Jose is a hub for TACA Airlines' northbound flights. The DGI
detected a pattern that these more "diverse" flights from
Ecuador were generally transiting Costa Rica and headed to
Guatemala or Belize - two countries with extremely porous
Mexican borders - as their final destination.

--------------------------------------------
OTHER NATIONALITIES USING ECUADOR AS BRIDGE?
--------------------------------------------

6. (C) According to Zamora, Ecuadorian Immigration officials
told DGI officials that an unspecified number of Arabs were
now arriving in Ecuador. Anecdotally, Zamora told us that he
was concerned regarding Iraqis, Afghans and Iranians
transiting Ecuador to Colombia via land, moving to an
unspecified destination "north," who were caught and deported
from Colombia. Ecuadorian Immigration told the DGI that the
administration's decision to drop visa requirements came as a
surprise to the Immigration department. GOCR consuls in
Ecuador reported an increase in all types of visa
applications since June 20.

7. (C) Lastly, Zamora expressed concern about a potential
influx of African migration to the region. Whereas before
Brazilian Immigration was an obstacle even though there were
direct flights from Africa, now Africans could transit
Brazil and land in Ecuador. From there, they could migrate
over land.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (C) COMMENT: Zamora's efforts at "caution and prevention"
are welcome and are in keeping with his efforts to enforce
Costa Rican immigration law more vigorously and to work with
regional counterparts (and us) more closely. We sense that
his instincts are correct, and we appreciate his more
"strategic" view of immigration throughout the region.
Though Zamora told us that there had thus far been no
indication that the emerging immigration patterns included
terrorist activity, he remains attentive to U.S. concerns,
and he continues to work closely with us on these issues. We
would be interested in Embassy Quito's/ConGen Guayaquil's
read of the Chinese immigration picture. Please advise. END
COMMENT.
CIANCHETTE

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