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Viewing cable 09ASMARA146, PROMOTING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ANTI-REGIME

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASMARA146 2009-05-05 13:53 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Asmara
VZCZCXYZ0003
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAE #0146/01 1251353
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051353Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASMARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0280
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 6278
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0482
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 3132
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 0285
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4780
RUEHFT/AMCONSUL FRANKFURT 1385
C O N F I D E N T I A L ASMARA 000146 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR CA/EX, CA/VO/F/P, CA/VO/L/A 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/05/2019 
TAGS: CVIS CMGT PREL PGOV SOCI PREF ER
SUBJECT: PROMOTING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ANTI-REGIME 
ERITREAN YOUTH 
 
REF: A. ASMARA 142 
     B. DYBDAHL-HACK EMAILS 20APR09 AND SUBSEQUENT 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Ronald K. McMullen for reason 1.4(d) 
 
 1. (C) SUMMARY: In Eritrea, only the elderly and pro-regime 
individuals are allowed passports and exit visas to travel 
abroad.  The regime closed the University of Asmara in 2005 
and conscripts almost all young adults into open-ended 
national service, which borders on indefinite forced labor. 
Perhaps 215,000 young Eritreans have fled the country and 
molder in refugee camps in Sudan, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. 
Posts plans to restart visa services (completely suspended in 
2007) for student visa applicants; we intend to give 
opportunities to study in the United States to those who 
oppose the regime, as well as others.  Thus, Post requests 
that CA seek to establish a limited category-specific 
exemption to the passport requirement for Eritreans found 
eligible for student visas.  Embassy Asmara employees 
eligible for Special Immigrant Visas should also be included 
in this narrow category.  End Summary. 
 
2. (SBU) FLEEING IN DROVES, BUT THEN STUCK 
------------------------------------------ 
 
Many young Eritreans long to study in the United States (ref 
A), apply to American universities, get accepted, and even 
get scholarships, but can't leave Eritrea legally unless they 
are relatives of regime insiders.  For tens of thousands of 
young Eritreans, hope for a better future has been 
extinguished.  Thousands cross illegally into Sudan; even 
those who acquire official refugee status find there is 
almost no chance for resettlement.  Many spend years in 
hardscrabble refugee camps in eastern Sudan, subject to 
abuse, exploitation, and despair.  Yet, tens of thousands 
find that preferable to living under one of the world's 
harshest dictatorships. 
 
3. (C) HOW THIS WOULD WORK 
-------------------------- 
 
Post intends to begin adjudicating student visa applications, 
regardless of whether the regime is willing to issue the 
applicant an Eritrean passport and exit visa.  If an 
applicant is otherwise found eligible for a student visa, 
Post will issue it in a Form DS-232.  If the visa recipient 
can later convince the authorities in Asmara to issue a 
passport and exit visa, fine.  Other visa recipients will 
undoubtedly make their way to Khartoum, where the Eritrean 
embassy is widely known to sell Eritrean passports to nearly 
all comers; with an Eritrean passport and an F1 visa in a 
Form DS-232, the lucky young person is off to America.  For 
those visa recipients who manage to leave the country and 
receive UNHCR refugee status, a UN-authorized travel document 
might allow the young person to travel to America with his or 
her F1 in the DS-232. 
 
4. (C) SPECIAL IMMIGRANT VISAS 
------------------------------ 
 
As Eritrea became independent only in 1993, many of our 
initial batch of FSNs are becoming eligible for 15-year 
Special Immigrant Visas (SIV).  Normally SIVs require 20 
years of USG employment, but Embassy Asmara's SIV applicants 
are frequently found eligible after 15 years due to the 
dangerous conditions in which they work.  For example, since 
2001 the regime has arrested and imprisoned 43 of our local 
employees; others have fled illegally to escape persecution. 
Several have returned to work after having been arrested, 
tortured, and eventually released.  One was held in an 
underground cell for an entire year.  Another lost 80% of his 
hearing after repeated beatings.  Once they apply for and are 
found eligible for SIVs, our FSNs still must get Eritrean 
passports and exit permits.  Currently four SIV-eligible FSNs 
are waiting to be issued Eritrean passports; they may never 
get them.  Post has not stopped adjudicating SIVs, but we may 
start issuing them in DS-232s as events warrant. 
 
5. (C) REQUEST: LIMITED CATEGORY-SPECIFIC EXEMPTION 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
Thanks to helpful background information from CA/VO (ref B) 
and other research, Post is familiar with INA 212 (d)(4)(A) 
 
regarding waiver procedures for travelers without passports. 
While we don't expect a massive number of Eritreans without 
passports to receive student visas or Special Immigrant 
Visas, processing these cases individually would be quite 
costly in terms of time and USG human resources. 
 
--Thus, Post requests that CA work with DHS to establish a 
limited category-specific exemption as per 22 CFR 41.3(g) 
that would encompass Eritreans who fully qualify for a 
student (F1) visa or SIV, except for the passport 
requirement.  Please advise.  Embassy point of contact is 
Consul Pam Hack.  Post plans to begin accepting student visa 
applications from those with and without passports soon. 
 
6. (C) COMMENT 
-------------- 
 
Due to the Isaias regime's ongoing restrictions on Embassy 
Asmara, Post does not contemplate a resumption of full visa 
services in the near future.  However, giving young Eritreans 
hope, the chance for an education, and the skills with which 
to rebuild their impoverished country in the post-Isaias 
period is one of the strongest signals we can send to the 
Eritrean people that the United States has not abandoned 
them.  Were we to begin processing student visa applications 
and require a regime-issued passport, we would be seen as 
strengthening the dictatorship's hand.  Thus, the limited 
category-specific exemption outlined above is key. 
 
MCMULLEN