Cablegate: Visa Bans: A Comparison of U.S. And E.U. Policies

Published: Mon 10 Mar 2003 07:35 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. SUMMARY: An analysis of American and E.U. visa policies
toward Burmese "who formulate, implement, or benefit from
policies that impede Burma's transition to democracy" shows
that American and E.U. consular officials refuse to issue
visas to more or less the same people, but sometimes for
different reasons. Although the two approaches yield
similar results, the American system is more flexible and
easier to implement. END SUMMARY.
The U.S. Visa Ban
2. A 1996 Presidential Proclamation bans entry into the
United States, as immigrant or non-immigrants, of senior
Burmese government officials and "other persons who
formulate, implement, or benefit from policies that impede
Burma's transition to democracy" and their immediate family
members. Such persons are ineligible to receive visas
under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Section
3. Individuals in the following categories (and their
immediate families) are subject to INA Section 212(f):
-- State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) members;
-- Government ministers;
-- Senior officials of the Union Solidarity and Development
Association (USDA);
-- Other senior government officials above the rank of
colonel or director general.
These categories overlap to a large extent. For example,
the Minister of Defense is an SPDC member and USDA senior
officials are either SPDC members or cabinet ministers.
Some ministers and all SPDC members are generals.
4. These categories are enumerated for ease in
implementation; however, the ban is not limited to
individuals who fall within these categories. Any other
person "who formulates, implements, or benefits from
policies that impede Burma's transition to democracy" could
be found ineligible to receive a visa under Section 212(f).
5. For practical reasons, the U.S. ban does not identify
specific individuals, but rather, categories of applicants
ineligible under 212(f). U.S. embassies and consulates
accept visa applications from any applicant physically
present in their consular districts. Consular sections
around the world could not be expected to recognize specific
individuals. Any Burmese applicant who lists a rank above
colonel or a title above director general on his/her visa
application should be refused, regardless of where they
apply. Also, the Burmese government often makes dramatic
personnel changes at the senior levels, which may or may not
be widely or promptly reported. Maintaining an up-to-date
list of individuals ineligible under Section 212(f) would be
time-consuming and difficult.
The E.U. Visa Ban
6. The E.U. annually develops a list of specific Burmese
officials who are ineligible to receive visas. Their list
could be divided into the following categories:
-- SPDC members;
-- Potential SPDC members:
-- Regional commanders;
-- Cabinet ministers (includes deputy ministers);
7. All of the individuals listed by the British Embassy in
July 2002 fall into one or more of the categories used to
implement the U.S. visa ban. However, some Burmese
officials that might fall into the U.S. catch-all category
of "other senior government officials above the rank of
colonel or director general" may not be specifically named
on the E.U. list (e.g., not all generals are SPDC, regional
commanders, or cabinet ministers).
The E.U. Proposal
8. The E.U. proposes to expand their list to include senior
members of the USDA and "certain other individuals who
formulate, implement, or benefit from policies that impede
Burma/Myanmar's transition to democracy, and their
families." This last category would include senior
officials of the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, Limited
(UMEHL) and companies owned by UMEHL, prominent bankers and
other "cronies."
9. Their proposed wording is virtually identical to the
wording of the Presidential Proclamation. Thus, individual
businessmen specified on the E.U. list could also be found
ineligible to receive a visa under INA Section 212(f).
Although we might, in fact, refuse the same people, our
justification would be slightly different. For example,
many UMEHL officials are retired generals and/or ministers
who the government rewarded for their services to the
regime. Whereas the E.U. might refuse such UMEHL officials
as "cronies," we might refuse them for having been career
beneficiaries of regime policies.
10. On a practical level, identifying all persons who
"benefit from policies that impede Burma/Myanmar's
transition to democracy" is an impossible task. Such a list
could only include the most conspicuous beneficiaries of
government policies. "Behind-the-scene" beneficiaries could
travel freely. Even if Western diplomats were able to
develop a comprehensive list of beneficiaries/cronies, it
would need to be constantly updated. For example, prominent
private bankers who many would have considered "cronies"
three months ago, might not be considered so today. In
fact, several of the bankers/businessmen on the E.U.'s
proposed list might now be ineligible under INA Section
214(b) (presumed immigrant intent), rather than under
Section 212(f).
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