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Cablegate: Quarterly Fraud Report - Asmara

VZCZCXRO9141
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHAE #0602/01 1921112
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111112Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASMARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8936
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH NH 0302
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 6091
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0400
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1062
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4702
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 2951
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0107
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 0065
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1749
RUEHMIL/AMCONSUL MILAN 0020
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES 0002
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 0183
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO 0001
RUEHGA/AMCONSUL CALGARY 0009
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 1271
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 1401
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 0029
RUEHFT/AMCONSUL FRANKFURT 1282
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 0229
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ASMARA 000602

SIPDIS


SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/CA
DEPT FOR CA/FPP, CA/EX
PASS TO KCC
PASS TO INL/HSTC
POSTS FOR FRAUD PREVENTION MANAGERS
FRANKFURT FOR RCO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS KFRD CPAS CMGT ASEC ER
SUBJECT: QUARTERLY FRAUD REPORT - ASMARA

REF: STATE 00205073

ASMARA 00000602 001.2 OF 004


1. The following is a summary of fraud conditions experienced during
the April to June 2007 period. This cable constitutes post's first
fraud report; for this reason, this particular report provides a
general overview. Subsequent reports will address more specific
fraud trends. Post has been closed for visa services since December
2006, due to the host government's refusal to provide visas across
the board to official travelers (to include technicians to support
our consular systems) and its insistence on the right to inspect the
Embassy's diplomatic pouches, which has resulted in the stoppage of
post's unclassified pouch since March 2007 affecting post's ability
to bring in accountable supplies.

--------------------------------------------- -
COUNTRY CONDITIONS - INCREASING DETERIORIATION
--------------------------------------------- -

2. The Eritrean economy continues to deteriorate at a rapid rate,
leading to increased anxiety among the population. Employment
prospects are virtually non-existent. Of those employed, many work
as draftees in the Eritrean national service which provides wages
barely a step above slave labor, approximately $30 and $40 per
month. Prices of basic goods continue to increase, and scarcity is
on the rise due to restrictions on imports and the government's
holding of hard currency. The wages paid under national service is
not sufficient to support individuals, let alone those draftees with
families.

3. Mandatory national service begins at the age of 17 for both boys
and girls, and includes intensive military training. For males,
while the official end date is the age of 40, in practice there is
no end date to the term of national service; in some cases,
individuals have been working in the national service for over 13
years. Because of this, many parents seek any avenue to get their
children out of the country prior to be conscripted, even at the
risk of their own arrest. Those unable to obtain permission to
leave Eritrea often illegally flee across the border to either Sudan
or Ethiopia to escape the harsh conditions. Many people with
passports leave legally and do not return. The desperation to leave
Eritrea is felt at all levels.

4. The consular section in Asmara remains closed to most visa
services, but has continued limited issuances for extreme
humanitarian cases and those clearly in USG interests. We
anticipate remaining closed to visa services for the indefinite
future. Post also provides the full array of American Citizen
Services.

---------
NIV FRAUD
---------

5. Post is not currently issuing NIVs in significant numbers. At
this time, the visa section mainly provides support to our
colleagues in the region who are processing the bulk of Eritrean
applicants. Asmara routinely verifies documents for these posts and
provides guidance on documents that are susceptible to fraud, such
as school certificates, those issued by the municipalities and
baptismal certificates.

6. Three LES sent to training in 2007 at FSI failed to return,
leading to a reevaluation and more restrictive Mission training
policies until the current environment improves. While technically

ASMARA 00000602 002.2 OF 004


not consular fraud, it is illustrative of the difficulties faced by
many Eritreans and their desire to improve their lives by
emigrating.

7. Student visas are another area of high occurrence of NIV fraud.
The only university in Eritrea closed in 2003 and many young people
are forced to seek higher education outside of the country. Many,
because of family ties and resources, wish to study in the U.S.
Combined with a struggling economy with few jobs, many young
Eritreans see higher education as their only hope for a better
future. For students, the most common form of fraud is the use of
an altered transcript, which happens to be one of the more readily
verifiable documents in Eritrea. Post's LES educational advisor
reports a dramatic increase in interest in her advising sessions.
Many young Eritreans who wish to study outside of Eritrea are unable
to obtain exit visas and passports locally choose instead flee
across the border to Sudan. In the past, the Eritrean embassy in
Khartoum issued passports to Eritreans, even to those who would not
have been issued in Asmara. (Note: A recently issued Eritrean
passport from Khartoum could be an indicator of someone who has fled
Eritrea illegally and may not be received kindly by the government
if they returned. End Note.)

--------
IV FRAUD
--------

8. Post has seen no employment-based IV fraud during this reporting
period.

9. Marriage fraud has always been a concern of the consular section
due to the number of arranged marriages. The fraud seen in Eritrea
is typical of many other countries, except that it is neither highly
organized nor sophisticated. It tends to be fairly easy to detect,
in that the Amcit in the relationship typically leaves Eritrea
immediately after the marriage to file the petition and then
maintains little or no contact until documentation is requested.
Also, all marriages in Eritrea are grand affairs, with even
impoverished families having elaborate ceremonies recorded on video.
Any marriage not performed with an elaborate religious service or
not having video documentation is highly suspect.

10. Attempts are also made to understate the age of a child in order
to move them more quickly to the U.S. It is very easy to obtain a
fraudulent (yet genuinely issued) birth certificate in Eritrea.
Post has noted cases of "children" obviously in their 20s attempting
to be passed off as teens.

--------
DV FRAUD
--------

11. Post is not currently processing DVs and has nothing to report.
In the past, when processing DVs, fraudulent educational transcripts
and fake marriages were the most common forms of fraud.

----------------------
ACS AND PASSPORT FRAUD
----------------------

12. Post has not seen any ACS or passport fraud during the reporting
period. Post uses DNA testing extensively to determine parentage, a
well-known fact to applicants in Asmara.


ASMARA 00000602 003.2 OF 004


--------------
ADOPTION FRAUD
--------------

13. Like other types of fraud, adoption fraud is neither organized
nor sophisticated but it is becoming more prevalent. The most
common form of fraud is the classification of a child as an orphan
while the birth parents are still alive and able to support the
child. The usual reasons for adoption fraud are to improve the
economic condition of the child by having them live with a U.S.
relative or to avoid national service. Eritrean adoptions are
usually only given to family members and are easy for them to
obtain. The Eritrean adoption is then used as the basis for a U.S.
adoption case.

------------
ASYLUM FRAUD
------------

14. Post has not processed asylum cases during the period and has
nothing to report.

--------------------------------------------
COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES
--------------------------------------------

15. The only area of cooperation received from the Eritrean
government involves document verification. However, because even
legitimately issued governmental documents are suspect, this
cooperation is of limited use. School records tend to be very well
kept and there is a history of cooperation with local schools
regarding verifying these documents. Post had a recent case of
suspected fraud in which the school verifiers seemed reluctant to
provide us with negative information due to the stature of the
individual's family. Post anticipates that if we were to identify
organized fraud rings that the local authorities would take an
interest, but to date, post has seen no evidence indicating the
existence of this type of organized smuggling in-country.

---------------------------
AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN
---------------------------

16. A large number of NIV applicants are expected when the consular
section reopens for visa services. The usual walk-in application
process will not be able to accommodate the volume. At such time
that post reopens for visa services, Post plans to employ the online
NIV appointment system to avoid the common problems with queuing in
areas outside of Embassy control.

17. The Harris technicians who maintain consular computer systems
did not receive visas from the Government of the State of Eritrea
(GSE) and were not able to make their scheduled visit in June.
Although the section can function in the short-to-intermediate term
with local technicians, if this situation is not addressed in the
long run, the consular section could be forced to shut down
completely in the event of a catastrophic failure of the computer
systems.

---------------------
STAFFING AND TRAINING
---------------------

18. Two of the three LES and the sole consular associate left the

ASMARA 00000602 004.2 OF 004


section during the reporting period but only one position has been
filled, leaving the section short on experienced staff. The
remaining LES position has not been filled due to the consular
section being closed for visa services. The position will be
refilled when the section reopens. Training options are currently
limited to those available in-country. The Harris technicians could
have provided needed systems training in June, but unfortunately
were not able to enter the country. The Mission restrictions on
off-shore training, currently in place due to the number of LES not
returning from training in the U.S., currently limits our staff to
on-line courses and on-the-job learning opportunities.

MCINTYRE

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