A new flock of migrants from Cuba are seeking asylum in Greece after fleeing from the economic crisis and political repression in their home country. Greece has been a European port for most refugees who come from Africa and Asia. However, the recent trend has witnessed more Cubans coming to find better lives in Greece. The issue received attention from the news and the international audience on October 28th, when 130 Cubans tried to fly from the Greek island Zakynthos to Milan in northern Italy.
The list of Cuban asylum seekers reveals that not everyone comes to Greece to extract wealth and leave. Many of them are committed to being a part of Greece, their potential new home, and contribute to its overall growth like other citizens. A Cuban asylum seeker named Juan enlisted his compatriots on an asylum petition, and has gathered 400 signatures. Juan Reported to Al Jazeera that “[T]here are lawyers, doctors, civil engineers – we’re not brigands… We wanted the country that will embrace us to see that we can offer things to society, we’re not here to extract wealth and go home, but to be part of society and contribute to it.”
All the Cuban asylum seekers who were interviewed reported that Cuba’s depressing economy and repression is the main reason that convinced them to leave. Juan added that any Cuban who participated in the protest against the government is being arrested and beaten. Although coming to Greece has its challenges, the Cuban asylum seekers are committed to staying in a place that respects democracy and human rights, unlike in Cuba.
We have seen this trend repeated everywhere in the world, where people living under repression are seeking ways to leave and find a better place to settle. Although Cubans can leave, where exactly are they welcomed? More and more developed countries like the United States have made it more difficult for refugees to come in. In this world full of human rights violations and repression, there has to be a more open policy for the oppressed. International organizations like the United Nations and the International Rescue Committee must push for more initiatives to accept refugees from distressed areas.
Cuba is a single-party authoritarian state that severely restricts basic civil liberties. This one-party system excludes opportunities for Cuban citizens to make structural or impactful changes to their current system, which made them turn to more democratic European countries like Greece. However, the current situation is that the Greek authorities do not register Cubans as asylum seekers and force them to go back to Cuba or seek asylum elsewhere. The Greek government is unprepared for this new wave, as they barely have any Spanish interpreters for the Cubans. The situation looks rather grim for these asylum seekers, as many European countries put hard limitations in accepting foreign refugees. In America, former President Donald Trump made it more difficult for refugees in the Cuban region to come. Although the new president Joe Biden has a more open policy regarding refugee admissions, America’s asylum service is still in a bad shape, according to Al Jazeera.
One clear implication is the Cuban asylum seekers getting rejected and returning home penniless. With many other conflicts in the world – like the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan – it appears that the Cubans are low down the priority list for the human rights organization. There is no sign of improvement in the politics of Cuba and more people are continuing to be oppressed. There is no real solution, but one suggestion is for the international organizations to keep a close watch on the human rights violations and arrests made by the Cuban authorities. Bodies like the U.S. could also put restraints or sanctions on Cuba if human rights violations persist. Changing the whole regime of Cuba is an impossible task, but collectively, countries could try to pressure others to be more lenient toward their citizens.
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