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Cablegate: The Visa Blues: Tripoli Consuls Sing in Unison

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Brooke F Adams 08/10/2006 05:16:07 PM From DB/Inbox: Brooke F Adams

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS TRIPOLI 00410

SIPDIS
CXCAIRO:
ACTION: POL
INFO: RSO PA ORA OMC LEGAT IPS ECON DEA DCM DAO CONS
AMB AID

DISSEMINATION: POL
CHARGE: PROG

VZCZCCRO096
RR RUEHEG
DE RUEHTRO #0410/01 2221247
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101247Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1096
INFO RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0383
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 1233

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000410

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ODIP CMGT LY
SUBJECT: THE VISA BLUES: TRIPOLI CONSULS SING IN UNISON


1. (SBU) Consular officers from fifteen foreign embassies with
representation in Libya gathered last week at the home of the
Pakistani consul to discuss common challenges faced in obtaining
visitor, business, and diplomatic visas to Libya. In addition to
TDY Conoff/Econoff from Embassy Tripoli, consuls from the
Philippines, Italy, Yemen, Poland, Russia, Korea, Bangladesh,
Afghanistan, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Serbia, and South Africa
attended the meeting. The meeting's goal was to formulate a
common approach to working with the GOL on ameliorating the
problems that all non-Arab nationals are having obtaining
tourist, business, and diplomatic visas to Libya.

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COMMON CHALLENGES

2. (SBU)

-----Diplomatic visas: Obtaining diplomatic visas in a timely
manner continues to be a challenge for most of the countries
represented. In an extreme example, the consul from the Embassy
of Russia expressed frustration over waiting seven months for
his visa, apparently linked to the fact that the Russians had
denied a Libyan traveling on an official passport a visa because
he was on their restricted security list. A diplomat from the
Philippines easily obtained a visa in her home country due to a
personal connection with the Libyan Embassy in Manila, but
because it wasn't processed through the normal official
channels, faced great difficulty in converting it to a residency
permit here.

----- Business visas: Obtaining business visas is not an easy
feat for most western nationals, due to the long list of
requirements necessary to receive a visa. Most agreed that this
could be partially intentional on the part of the government,
but may also be in part a matter of organization as
pre-approvals must be faxed to their embassies abroad from
Tripoli, which can easily be lost or misplaced. For all
countries facing this challenge, there is a trend for
businesspeople to enter on tourist visas, which are relatively
easy to obtain via well connected travel agencies.

-----Third Country Nationals: Employing third country nationals
at foreign embassies is a growing difficulty. The Korean consul
linked this to the Manpower Minister's supposed mandate to
drastically reduce the Libyan unemployment rate. He also noted
that Korean companies are having trouble obtaining work visas
for many of their nationals who are slated to work at Korean
companies based in Libya, the implication being that Libyans
must be employed instead. The Pakistani consul's son was offered
a job at Schlumberger, but his visa has been stalled, possibly
for the same reason. The Italian consul was informed that
effective last month, all visas that go through the protocol
office will also be vetted through the manpower office,
presumably to ensure that Libyans are being employed as often as
possible.

SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT

3. (SBU)

-----Tourist visas: All nationalities, with the exception of the
U.S., are having relative success obtaining tourist visas via
travel agencies who set up package tours. Travel agencies with
good connections in the government are said to have the highest
success rate of obtaining tourist visas. Cruise ships stopping
at Mediterranean destinations frequently disembark in Tripoli
Harbor and unload several hundred tourists at a time. Short term
visas upon generally granted upon arrival, though it takes one
to two hours of processing.

-----Dip visas at the airport: Officials from the GOL told
consuls from other Embassies that they are considering issuing
visas to diplomats at the airport, though a pre-approval from
the MFA would still be required.

FUTURE GOALS

4. (SBU) Consuls decided to hold monthly meetings to exchange
information and share updates on visa issues. In addition, a
steering committee composed of the Philippine, Pakistani, and
Italian consuls was formed to draft a proposal to work on the
following goals:

-----Visa Reciprocity: Engage with the Libyan authorities on
dedicating themselves to enforcing visa reciprocity. Most
countries represented at the meeting issue visas for Libyan
nationals within seven to ten working days for all categories,
but few were receiving similar treatment.

-----Ambassadorial Meeting: Discuss a possible effort to request
some of our ambassadors collectively meet with GOL officials
regularly on areas of common concern to foreign embassies
regarding visa issues. While several in the group wanted the US
to take an active leadership role in this initiative, Conoff
explained that we might not be as persuasive a spokesman as
other countries because we don't have visa issuing capability
yet.

5. Comment. The GOL has told post repeatedly that until we
establish full visa operations in Tripoli, they will reciprocate
by limiting visa services to Americans. Once post begins issuing
visas, we anticipate some relief to the additional challenges
U.S. travelers face in obtaining Libyan visas. However, the
experience of other foreign missions that have full visa
issuance authority in Tripoli is far from perfect and indicates
that visa difficulties are endemic to Libya's dealings with its
foreign guests.
BERRY

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