Search

 

Cablegate: Lessons Learned From Recent Children's Issues Cases

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 MANAMA 000196

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR CA/ACS/CI
RIYADH PASS TO DHAHRAN AND JEDDAH
DHAHRAN FOR CAROLINA MELARA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC CMGT BA
SUBJECT: LESSONS LEARNED FROM RECENT CHILDREN'S ISSUES CASES

REF: A. MANAMA 153

B. STATE 26772
C. MANAMA 149

1. (SBU) Last week, Emb Manama (with assistance from the
Department and CONGEN Dhahran) helped resolve two difficult
children's issues (CI) cases involving disputes between Saudi
fathers and Amcit mothers, with their dual-national children
in between. Both concluded successfully, but one was far
more difficult than the other. The lessons that we are
drawing from the Al-Shalawi and Al-Balawi cases may be
helpful should we and the Department confront similar cases
again.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
LESSON 1: USE THE SAME PASSPORT TO ENTER AND EXIT BAHRAIN
--------------------------------------------- --------------

2. (SBU). In the Shalawi case, the mother had the Saudi
passports for her and her six children when she went through
exit controls at Bahrain International Airport. Using the
same passport for entry and exit allowed the immigration
officer to verify by computer that she and her children
entered Bahrain legally on the Saudi passport. Their
departure was unhindered. Their US passports were necessary
only to show the airline that they would be able to enter the
US upon arrival. Above all, the mother's presence helped make
the travel appear entirely routine.

3. (SBU) In contrast, the four Al-Balawi children were
traveling alone and on new US passports. This raised GOB
suspicions. The new passports provided the Bahrainis with no
entry record, which raised an immediate flag. Moreover, a
senior official in the MOI said that if an immigration
officer suspects children traveling are subject to a child
custody case, they are to check with their superiors. The
Balawis' ran afoul on both counts quickly, pushing the
decision to higher levels of the GOB and engaging the MFA.
If the children had been able to carry their Saudi passport,
they might have been able to leave Bahrain the same night
they arrived at the Embassy.

--------------------------------------------- ----
LESSON 2: THE GOB LIVES FOR THE WEEKEND--REALLY
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (SBU) The Al-Balawi children showed up on a Thursday
night, the first day of the local weekend. As the Embassy
began addressing ever-higher levels of the GOB to get a quick
decision--while trying to show as much sensitivity towards
local mores as possible by avoiding calls during naptimes and
meals--it became more and more apparent that the GOB,
especially the Foreign Ministry, was positively hostile to
being pressured into making a quick decision on a weekend.
One high-level MFA official angrily told the Charge to "stop
calling all around town about this," while another told
CONOFF that the USG was not helping its case by pushing so
hard for a quick decision on a weekend.

--------------------------------------------- -----
LESSON 3: KEEP CI CASES IN THE INTERIOR MINISTRY
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) For reasons that are still not entirely clear, the
MFA appears to have been unhelpful in the case of the Al
Balawis. One very knowledgeable GOB source that that at a
core Cabinet meeting on February 7, only the MFA argued
against letting the Balawi children travel immediately. In
contrast, the upper echelons of the Ministry of Interior
(MOI) were consistently in favor of letting the children
travel. We suspect that the MFA was more sensitive to the
Saudi reaction than was the MOI--a sensitivity that led the
MFA to commission a "legal study" of the issue. (COMMENT:
This "study" appears to have not been completed. END
COMMENT). Given this sensitivity, resolving these types of
cases through the MOI may be preferable.

--------------------------------------
LESSON 4: HAVE A CLEAR EXIT STRATEGY
--------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In the Al Shalawi case, Dhahran CONOFF was in
regular communication with both Manama CONOFF and Mrs. Al
Shalawi in the weeks prior to the event. This communication
allowed both CONOFFs to plan exactly what was needed for the
Al Shalawis to depart. In contrast, the Al Balawi children
had no clear idea how they expected to leave Bahrain, and
neither did their mother. Without knowing more about exactly
how, when, or with what documents the children would arrive
at the Embassy, Post was not able to lay the groundwork for
an easy departure, nor were we able to effectively allay the
anxieties of the mother or children about what was going to
happen.

--------------------------------------
LESSON 5: A LITTLE LUCK ALWAYS HELPS
--------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The willingness of the Saudi father to allow the
children to travel to their mother on a "temporary visit" was
instrumental in the children receiving GOB permission to
depart Bahrain for the US. The father's consent gave the MFA
the escape it was hoping for--it could placate the US without
angering the Saudis. However, this escape required a senior
MFA official to explain (unconvincingly) to the Charge that
it was illegal for someone to enter Bahrain on the passport
of one nationality and depart using the passport of another
nationality, but since the father did not object, it was OK
for the children to leave using their US passports.
(COMMENT: A knowledgeable legal source looked at the 1965
Bahraini Immigration Law and said that the law was silent on
the issue of whether or not an alien had to enter and leave
Bahrain using the same passport. END COMMENT)

8. (SBU) Our pressure certainly had the GOB looking for an
escape, but if the father had reacted differently to what his
wife told him, or if he believed that the children were still
in Bahrain, the Al-Balawi children likely would still be in
Bahrain.

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
LESSON 6: TRUST BUT VERIFY, AND THEN VERIFY AGAIN AND AGAIN
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

8. (SBU) After receiving assurances from senior levels of the
GOB, verified through two different channels, that
"everything was taken care of" and that the Al Balawi
children would be allowed to depart, CONOFF showed up at the
airport with the Al Balawis only to find that the GOB had
failed to inform the immigration officers that the children
had GOB permission to travel. This time, the immigration
officers said that not only was there still no entry record
for the US passports, but also a missing persons report on
the children filed by the father. We had anticipated this
scenario, and RSO was standing by to contact the Deputy
Interior Minister, with whom we work closely on many security
issues. After several telephone calls and a 30-minute wait,
the children were able to depart Bahrain.

FORD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 


Myanmar: UN Condemns Escalating Violence In Deadliest Day Of Protests So Far

In response to the killing of at least 18 protesters demonstrating against Myanmar’s military coup, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) on Sunday together with the UN chief, strongly condemned the “escalating violence” and called for an immediate end to the use of force... More>>

Syria: Economic Decline, Rising Hunger And Surging Humanitarian Needs

Syria’s fragile economy has “suffered multiple shocks” over the past 18 months, with its currency plummeting and joblessness swelling as people struggle to cover their basic needs, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council ... More>>

OECD: Final Quarter Of 2020 Shows Continued Recovery In G20 International Merchandise Trade

G20 international merchandise trade continued to rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020 ( exports up 7.2% and imports up 6.8%), following the sharp falls seen in the first half of 2020, as lockdown measures affected trade globally. Although growth ... More>>


Focus On: UN SDGs


UNFCCC: Greater Climate Ambition Urged As Initial NDC Synthesis Report Is Published

UN Climate Change today published the Initial NDC Synthesis Report, showing nations must redouble efforts and submit stronger, more ambitious national climate action plans in 2021 if they’re to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2°C—ideally 1.5°C—by the end of the century... More>>


2021: Critical Year To ‘reset Our Relationship With Nature’ – UN Chief

During this time of “crisis and fragility”, the UN chief told the United Nations Environment Assembly on Monday that human well-being and prosperity can be vastly improved by prioritizing nature-based solutions. Painting a picture of the turmoil ... More>>


Paris Agreement: UN Secretary-General António Guterres To Mark U.S. Reentry With Envoy For Climate John Kerry

Watch live at webtv.un.org UN Secretary-General António Guterres will join U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John F. Kerry at an event marking the United States’ reentry into the Paris Agreement this Friday. The discussion with the Secretary-General ... More>>