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Cablegate: Gocr Fears That Lax Ecuador Visa Policy Is Fueling

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0925/01 3311733
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261733Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0304
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0151
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1353
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 0168
RHEFHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFIUU/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000925

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

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

REF: SAN JOSE 882

1. (SBU) This is the unclassified version of San Jose 882,
being transmitted at the request of the Human Smuggling and
Trafficking Center (HSTC).

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

2. (SBU) GOCR Immigration officials who traveled to Ecuador
in October reported that approximately 10,000 Chinese had
entered Ecuador since the GOE dropped its tourist visa
requirements for all nationalities on June 20. Embassy
contacts 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 of the Chinese had applied for Costa Rican
permanent residency while in Beijing and then asked that
their notification be sent to them in Ecuador, suggesting the
beginning of an organized fraud pattern. Post learned that
flights from Ecuador through Costa Rica (a TACA Airlines hub
for flights headed north) had began to include a diverse mix
of nationalities since June, including Eastern Europeans,
Arabs, and South Americans. END SUMMARY.

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

3. (SBU) The GOCR General Directorate of Immigration (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. One official
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. Two DGI
officials were dispatched to Quito in October to reinforce
training for GOCR consuls and to meet with Ecuadorian and
Chinese officials; the DGI shared its report with Post. The
DGI halted the above-mentioned residency cases, and GOCR
consuls in Beijing and Quito will take a closer look at
Chinese petitions for evidence of fraud.

4. (SBU) According to the DGI report, a senior Ecuadorian
Immigration official 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 4776 Chinese entries and 4417 departures. Even with
those statistics, however, the DGI was told it was too early
to determine the positive or negative effect from dropping
the Ecuadorian visa requirement, though officials were aware
that many of the Chinese were looking to the U.S. as their
final destination. GOE officials explained to the DGI that
the visa-less travel requirement was designed to increase
tourism, investment and trade for Ecuador, as well as to
"increase the free movement of people into and out of the
country."

5. (SBU) Also according to the DGI report, in a separate
meeting with a Chinese Embassy official in Ecuador, the DGI
learned 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. Approximately
one-third of those who entered Ecuador reportedly had
departed legally. The remainder 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"
-----------------------------------

6. (SBU) A senior DGI official told Post that that daily
flights arriving to San Jose from Ecuador had recently become
"very cosmopolitan." Before, these flights carried more
"local" (Central American) clientele but now included many

South Americans and Eastern Europeans, among others. 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
borders with Mexico - as their final destination.

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

7. (SBU) Ecuadorian Immigration officials told DGI officials
that an unspecified number of Arabs were now arriving in
Ecuador. Reportedly, Ecuadorian Immigration maintained that
the Correa 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.

8. (SBU) One senior DGI official expressed concern to Post
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 anywhere in Central, South, or North
America.
CIANCHETTE

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