US embassy cable - 06ASHGABAT139

UNITED WE STAND (SORT OF): ASHGABAT'S WESTERN CONSULAR OFFICERS TALK SHOP

Identifier: 06ASHGABAT139
Wikileaks: View 06ASHGABAT139 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Ashgabat
Created: 2006-01-27 12:04:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: CVIS FR GM KFRD PGOV TX UK
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO4247
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHAH #0139/01 0271204
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 271204Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6923
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0374
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0315
RUEHFT/AMCONSUL FRANKFURT 3238
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ASHGABAT 000139 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CACEN (PERRY); FRANKFURT FOR RCO BROWN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2016 
TAGS: CVIS, FR, GM, KFRD, PGOV, TX, UK 
SUBJECT: UNITED WE STAND (SORT OF): ASHGABAT'S WESTERN 
CONSULAR OFFICERS TALK SHOP 
 
REF: A): ASHGABAT 0053 B): ASHGABAT 0086 
 
Classified By: (U) AMBASSADOR TRACEY ANN JACOBSON FOR REASONS 1.4 B AND 
 D. 
 
------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (SBU) On January 27, Consular officers from the U.S., 
German, British and French embassies met at the German 
Embassy in Asghabat to discuss shared consular trends and 
anti-fraud prevention measures pertinent to each embassy. 
Like the U.S. Embassy, EU embassies reported an increase in 
demand and fraud, a possible indication that more 
Turkmenistanis are eager to escape Turkmenistan's repressive 
and increasingly declining political and economic 
environment.  While all were eager to share experiences and 
information on consular and fraud trends, our German and 
French colleagues were not receptive to proposals to engage 
in consular outreach to better inform Turkmenistanis about 
our respective visa rules and regulations.  END SUMMARY. 
 
--------------------------------- 
RISING DEMAND EQUALS RISING FRAUD 
--------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) According to Consular Chief Vera Gebhardt (who was 
joined by her assistant Nadine Lahayne), the German Embassy 
in Ashgabat has seen a steady increase in visa issuances over 
the past three years: from 3100 visas issued in 2003 to 3,600 
issued in 2005.  Seventy-five percent of visas issued were 
for those purchasing cars in Germany to bring back to 
Turkmenistan.  The remaining recipients were those visiting 
family members, students, and businessmen.  Gebhardt added 
that very few Turkmensitanis apply for tourist visas due to 
the high cost of expenses in Germany.  The German embassy's 
14 percent refusal rate is considered high compared to other 
German embassies in the former Soviet republics. 
 
3.  (SBU) Gebhardt said that the embassy did not have any 
information as to the number of overstays of those who 
received German/Schengen visas, since most who choose to 
remain do so outside of Germany.  She did note that one group 
of concern are those applying to work as au pairs.  In 2005, 
30 Turkmenistanis went to Germany to work as au pair and only 
11 (37 percent) came back.  She added that in 2005, the 
German embassy had caught one applicant using a fake passport 
(Note: This was the first reported incident involving a 
fraudulent Turkmenistani passport.  End Note) 
 
4.  (SBU) British Consular Officer David Baugh said that he 
issues many visas to relatives of Turkmenistanis who have 
married UK citizens, as well as to maids who wish to work for 
them.  The British Embassy is very concerned with the large 
number of falsified bank documents that applicants use to 
support their applications (Note: Baugh has provided us with 
samples of these documents.  End Note.) When confronted with 
fraudulent documents, Baugh said that these banks refuse to 
officially acknowledge that they are indeed fraudulent, 
although informally they do. 
 
5.  (SBU) Baugh also said that the British Embassy has 
experienced problems with local tour agencies and visa 
facilitators, many of whom brief applicants on how to pass 
visa interviews.  Baugh informed us of three 
agencies/expeditors who are constant offenders: Alsayhat (a 
local travel agency), Oxford Vision (a UK-based company run 
by a Turkmenistani currently living in the UK), and Klara 
Asadulina, a former travel agency worker who has supported 
many bad UK student visa applicants.  (Note: In January 2005, 
Asadulina attempted to bribe post's NIV FSN, who ironically 
is also our fraud investigator.  Thanks to information 
provided by Baugh, Asadulina is currently entered into the 
CLASS system as a P6E.  End Note). 
 
6.  (SBU) French Consular Officer Sophie Guegan-Rivet said 
that in 2005 the French Embassy issued 400 visas, compared to 
563 in 2004 and 291 in 2003.  She said that French embassy 
had expected an increase in demand for visas, as well as 
fraud in 2005 with Turkmenistan Airlines' introduction of 
direct service to Paris, which did not materialize.  Most 
French visas are issued to Schlumberger employees who go to 
France for training to work in the oil and gas fields in 
Turkmenistan.  Guegan-Rivet added that she has also seen an 
increase in the number of Turkish citizens applying for 
French visas.  Baugh added that he has also seen an increase 
 
ASHGABAT 00000139  002 OF 003 
 
 
in the number of inquires from Iranians who wish to apply for 
British visas in Ashgabat.  Baugh suggested that the increase 
in third country national applications may be attempts to 
circumvent long waiting lines in countries where citizens 
must wait for British and French visas, and that they see 
Ashgabat as a quick alternative. 
 
-------------------- 
THE U.S. PERSPECTIVE 
-------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) Highlighting points mentioned in Post's recent 
anti-fraud summary (REF B), Conoff informed his European 
colleagues of the noted 20 percent increase in demand for 
visas, as well as post's observations of the constant use of 
fraudulent letters of invitation.  While Post's visa demand 
was much lower compared to other embassies in the former 
Soviet Union, we expect a continued increase in demand and 
instances of fraud to rise, as the political and economic 
situation here continues to deteriorate.  While we have 
already seen recent examples of increased sophistication of 
fraud employed to attempt to get visas, we have not 
experienced such a level of fraud as European embassies, 
largely since we do not place as high a value on bank 
statements and employment letters as EU consular sections 
must do as we are obliged to deny based upon the presumption 
of intent to immigrate. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
CONSULAR OUTREACH: US AND UK: TOGETHER (AND ALONE) AGAIN 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
8.  (SBU) Noting that this meeting was the first formal 
exchange of ideas and experiences with Western embassies, 
Conoff expressed great appreciation for this meeting and 
invited his EU colleagues to observe American visa 
interviewing procedures and methods, an invitation warmly 
received.  Conoff also suggested that the US and EU embassies 
explore opportunities for joint outreach, given the fact that 
our countries are highly popular destinations for work, 
travel, and illegal migration.  While Baugh expressed 
enthusiasm for such outreach, Gebhardt bluntly said that the 
German embassy does not wish to advertise its policies, 
fearing that it will attract more interest in traveling to 
Germany, ergo more work.  While the German Embassy is glad to 
promote German culture, it is not comfortable doing anything 
on the consular front. 
 
9.  (SBU)  Conoff and Baugh countered that such outreach 
should be considered as a means to better explain our visa 
procedures since as seen in the incidents of fraud, many 
people are not aware of what they can and cannot do, and 
could help combat human trafficking and illegal migration. 
In addition, such outreach, especially with GOTX 
interlocutors, could also serve as a means to elicit 
information about the GOTX, including the elusive State 
Service for the Registration of Foreigners.  Recalling his 
close working experience with EU diplomats in Belarus, Conoff 
added that it is within all of our interests to work 
together, as we all share the same concerns in our line of 
work, and that we can and should work together.  Conoff also 
offered to raise his proposal with other non-EU embassies 
whose countries are also popular with Turkmenistanis (i.e. 
Turkey, Russia, China, etc.) During this exchange, 
Guegan-Rivet sat noticeably silent, however her immediate 
cool reaction to Conoff's proposal suggests that she shares 
her German colleague's point of view. 
 
10.  (SBU) Conoff then expressed U.S. Embassy concern with 
the recently passed migration law (REF A), noting that many 
of its articles could prevent Turkmenistani citizens from 
traveling outside of Turkmenistan, including those who 
participate in USG exchanges.  While Baugh also expressed 
concern with the law, Gebhardt and Guegan-Rivet did not 
express any opinion about the law. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
11.  (SBU) Our meeting marked the first time in recent memory 
that our embassies formally met to exchange ideas and 
experiences.  While nothing groundbreaking occurred, it was a 
valuable opportunity to learn more about the problems and 
similarities shared by each other's consular sections.  The 
increase in demand and instances of fraud reflect similar 
trends we have seen in our consular operations, and suggest 
 
ASHGABAT 00000139  003 OF 003 
 
 
that more and more people are eager to get while the getting 
is good.  All agreed that we would continue to work closely 
with each other and share information about various fraud 
trends, and to regularly meet (Conoff offered to host the 
next meeting). 
 
12.  (C) The German and French embassies' reluctance to 
engage the local population on consular outreach is 
indicative of each embassy's general focus on cultural events 
and business facilitation.  We will continue to engage our 
European colleagues to become more proactive in consular 
outreach, which would undoubtedly serve all of our interests, 
as well as those of Turkmenistanis eager to travel to our 
countries.  END COMMENT. 
JACOBSON 

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