Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Djibouti

Published: Wed 27 Aug 2008 09:18 AM
DE RUEHDJ #0687/01 2400918
P 270918Z AUG 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: STATE 74840
1. Country Conditions: The Republic of Djibouti is a developing
and stable African country in the Horn of Africa. Although
exact statistics are unavailable, unemployment is estimated in
excess of 50 percent of the working-age population. Over two-
thirds of the country's estimated 650,000 residents live in the
capital, also called Djibouti. Djibouti attracts numerous
economic migrants and refugees from neighboring Eritrea,
Ethiopia, and Somalia.
2. Since the suspension of all visa operations in Eritrea in
December 2006, and of non-immigrant visa processing in Yemen in
April 2008, Post has been processing an increased number of visa
requests from both countries.
3. The level of consular fraud in Djibouti is low but believed
to be increasing.
4. NIV fraud has become increasingly sophisticated. Lying
continues to be a method; document fraud has evolved as the
interest to travel to the U.S. has become ever more popular with
the increasing American presence in Djibouti.
5. Tourism: Young applicants age 22-35--including couples going
on their 'honeymoon', wanting to visit family, or planning to
visit the U.S. for tourism--produce fraudulent documents to
prove ties to Djibouti. False documents are computer-generated
to show stable employment and sufficient finances to support
self and family. Fraudulent bank statements are also included
in the package with an official stamp and signature. Spot
checks by Post's consular fraud prevention unit (FPU) have
helped identify such fraud; recurring transaction numbers and
incorrect balances can be fraud indicators. Applicants also
commonly obtain a new passport as an attempt to conceal prior
travel to what are considered as possibly 'undesirable'
locations (i.e., to other predominantly Muslim countries).
6. Students: The few Djiboutian student visa applicants received
are typically children of government ministers or of other
government officials. These applicants are legitimate.
7. The suspension of all visa operations at Embassy Asmara has
shifted the bulk of Eritrean student visa applicants seeking to
enroll in associate, bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree
programs to Djibouti. While some Eritrean students qualify for
a student visa, it is evident that many--especially students
seeking an associate or bachelor's degree--seek student visas as
a means to easily immigrate to the U.S. Post noticed that most
Eritrean students only apply to one school, and have not
searched for or applied to other schools. Also, they apply to
schools with relatively easy enrollment, most notably Maharishi
University, in Fairfield, IA, which has a unique work-study
program that offsets the cost of tuition. Maharishi students
usually spend a short time in the classroom at the beginning of
the program, work at internships at high-paying firms to offset
the cost of school, and then return for additional classroom
work before receiving their degrees. As students pay only
$4,200 up front, the program attracts overseas students with
limited funds.
8. Post conducts text searchs in CCD for sponsors' names, to
determine whether there are recurring sponsors in the student
visa applicant pool.
9. Post conducted a validation study in early 2008 on 2006 and
2007 Djiboutian NIV applicants, which confirmed the return of
approximately 75% of applicants. However, post believes that
future validation studies may show a lower return rate. The
Ministry of Finance's Director of Economics concurred with
Post's observation that an increasing number of lower middle
class B1/B2 applicants do not find the job market attractive,
and therefore tend to falsify supporting documents (i.e.,
employment letters or bank statements) in hopes of appearing
stable to qualify for a U.S. non-immigrant visa.
10. Djibouti possesses porous borders, and Post continues to be
concerned about possible terrorists entering the country seeking
to travel to the U.S. Post continues to be diligent in
processing SAOs to curb the possibility of issuing a visa to a
wanted terrorist. In addition, we work with the regional LEGATT
team for additional spot checks.
11. Post has been informed by Djibouti-American contacts and
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French authorities that Djiboutian passports can be purchased by
Somalis. In addition, French authorities have reportedly seized
Djiboutian passports from Somali immigrants in France.
Djiboutian authorities neither denied nor confirmed this claim.
12. Most Djiboutian IV applicants are bona fide. However, the
majority of immigrant petitions received in Djibouti are family
reunification petitions for Somali citizens. Post has a high
rate of fraud in this area since there is no competent civil
authority in Somalia. All civil documents from Somalia can be
easily purchased and falsified.
13. The applicants typically have little to no evidence of a
relationship to the petitioner. Photos are almost never
produced. When photos do exist, they are clearly staged.
(Note: Staged does not necessarily mean fraud. Staged can also
mean photographs by a paid studio portrait with fake backdrop.)
Additionally, the majority of applicants are illiterate, and so
there are no letters exchanged between petitioner and applicant.
Phone calls are expensive and usually are made through prepaid
cards, which leave no usable record. Money transfer receipts
are often offered as proof of relationship. However, they tend
to be handwritten on scraps of torn notebook paper, and often do
not indicate the name of either petitioner or applicant, but
rather use the name of a neighbor, relative, etc., in a position
to send or collect the money.
14. With the establishment and the expansion of in Djibouti of
Camp Lemonier-?-headquarters for approximately 2,200 U.S.
military forces--Post has seen an increase in K1 visas. Some
beneficiaries are female prostitutes working in local bars.
Rudimentary English skills make them unable to answer simple
questions about their fiance.
15. In addition to fraudulent marriages, an egregious number of
unrelated and overage children are added to petitions. Children
are often stated to be significantly younger than they are. To
ensure that all the children in a family will be younger than 21
at the time of petitioning, some or all of their ages may be
significantly regressed. On many occasions, the panel physician
has informed the Consular Officer that children are either
suspected to be over 21, or are unrelated applicants.
16. Post began processing Diversity Visas (DVs) in 2007. Most
of the winners are Somalis, who present the same documents and
at times have the same sponsor. This is a concern for Post,
considering the lack of competent government authorities to
issue police records, civil documents, school records, etc., in
Somalia. It is therefore very difficult for Post to verify
Somali DV applicants.
17. The same factors that influence IV fraud also affect
passport and citizenship fraud. Post is sometimes forced to
rely on voluntary DNA testing to adjudicate CRBA cases for
children born in Somalia.
18. Another problematic and questionable factor is parents'
ability to transfer citizenship to their child. Some parents
have lived out of the United States for so long it is hard for
them to prove at least 3 years physical presence in the United
19. Due to the high number of U.S. military servicemen in
Djibouti, Post has recognized an increase of CRBA cases from
them and their Djiboutian or Ethiopian girlfriends. To protect
the servicemen from the ring of prostitutes that target them and
to prevent fraud, Post suggests DNA exams from the serviceman
and the child in question.
20. Post has experienced an increasing number of cases where
Somali-Americans have lost their passports during their visit to
Somalia. Post believes there is a possibility that Somali-
Americans return to Somalia upon receiving nationality and give
their passports to family members (such as their brother, sister
or cousin) who have similar physical features to the AmCit. The
family member then travels to the U.S. with the passport. Once
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the family member arrives in the U.S., the AmCit reports his or
her passport lost or stolen. Since post now has access to the
DSH, we use this tool to track the entry and exits of AmCits who
report their passports lost or stolen.
21. Many new Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) visiting their
countries of origin for vacation also report their travel
documents or green cards lost. Post relies on the DHS Regional
Office to provide a travel letter.
22. Foreign adoption is extremely difficult in Djibouti. By
law, only non-Djiboutian children (e.g., a baby born to an
Ethiopian mother and unknown father) are eligible for foreign
adoption. The difficulty in completing an adoption here deters
all but the most determined would-be parents. It is not unusual
for the process to take up to a year to complete. We therefore
believe adoption fraud is negligible.
23. Post has frequently found that the only usable evidence of
relationship is DNA. We have found a decreasing number of cases
with negative DNA results. However, approximately 40 per cent
of cases where we suggest DNA testing never follow through with
such testing. We believe that word is spreading that DNA can
not be 'fooled', and abandoned cases know that they will be
caught if they attempt to do DNA testing. Many of the negative
DNA tests come back close, but do not meet the required
threshold for proof. We suspect identify fraud in these cases;
for example, an aunt or a sister claiming to be the mother.
24. Post also finds a significant number of legitimate families
will slip in additional children. Where more than one child is
DNA tested, one may come back legitimate while another returns
as no relation.
25. Marriages where no children are available to DNA test are
particularly difficult to prove. Often, there is no
relationship between the two spouses, because the marriage was
arranged and the spouses knew each other for only a matter of
days. While the vast majority of the marriage arrangements
involved payment to the AmCit or LPR, the applicants still
appear to take the arrangement seriously, and consider it to be
a valid marriage.
V92s and V93s
26. All the issues detailed in IVs above apply to V92s and V93s.
However, we find a significantly higher percentage of
relationship fraud in 92s and 93s. For Visas 93, in cases of
spouses without children, the vast majority were married well
after the I-590 was approved, usually only weeks or in some
cases just hours prior to departure for the U.S. During the
interview, they frequently claim that they were living together
as spouses for several months prior to the filing the I-590, but
only decided to marry when departure was imminent. Post
believes that many unmarried refugees accept the highest
financial bidder for a spouse after they receive their travel
27. While Post has not identified any alien smuggling trends, it
cannot discount the possibility of alien smuggling in IV cases,
particularly when post must rely on DNA testing to determine
relationship. Djibouti is a major transit country for economic
and political migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia
heading to the Middle East. In a desperate attempt to reach
their destination, the migrants become targets for traffickers
and smugglers.
28. The RSO and ARSO support the Consular Section fraud
investigations. They also provide information regarding
possible visa fraud we may encounter due to the evolving
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dynamics of Djibouti?s economy. One of the three FSNs in the
Consular Section is dedicated to fraud investigation, but has
not taken any formal fraud detection training. The RSO FSN
Investigator (FSNI), who assists the Consular Section with fraud
investigations, is an experienced investigator who has received
field investigation training. This partnership between the RSO
and Consular Section has strengthened Post's fraud prevention.
All investigations results are reported in writing.
29. Citizenship is not conferred by birth in Djibouti; to
inherit citizenship, at least one parent must be a documented
Djiboutian. The Government will not issue a birth certificate
for a child deemed to be non-Djiboutian. However, most
Djiboutians are documented, and those documents are well
organized and maintained by the government. Upon gaining
independence from France in 1977, Djibouti launched a campaign
to document its citizens.
30. The government cooperates with Post and is willing to assist
us with combating visa fraud.
31. As detailed above, a key concern is insufficient ability to
authenticate documents presented by the many Somali applicants
who appear at Embassy Djibouti. As a result, it is difficult to
establish with satisfaction the bona fides of Somali travelers,
many of whose applications are thus denied, in the absence of
guidance to the contrary from the Department.
32. Long delays in responding to requests for Security Advisory
Opinions (SAOs) is another concern. Djibouti's predominantly
Muslim and ethnic Somali society means a large number of
applicants must await 'further administrative processing.' Lack
of specific date or place of birth information for many CLASS
hits has required Post to submit numerous SAO requests--the vast
majority of which are cleared, albeit weeks later (if not
34. ConOff works closely with the French and other Consulates to
share and receive information on fraud trends in Djibouti. In
order to combat fraud from applicants from Eritrea, Yemen and
Somalia, Post also works closely with regional posts to verify
35. Post has only one Consular Officer (Civil Service on
excursion) and a back-up Consular Officer (untenured JO).
ConOff has taken PC541 (Fraud Prevention for Consular Managers)
at FSI and acts as the Fraud Prevention Manager. The Senior FSN
in Post?s Consular Section serves as the Fraud and ACS
assistant. No formal fraud detection training has been
provided, but she has been nominated by Post for the upcoming
LES Fraud Prevention Workshop. Current ConOff will leave post
in August 2009.
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