Colombia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that it had denied political asylum to six Cuban citizens who refused to board a flight home from Bogota airport on January 1 and who have been in limbo since.
Speaking at a press conference, Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin stated that, “The decision taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the advisory committee for the determination of refugee status…was to not provide refuge.”
Legal or political reasons?
Having spent the last month interviewing and evaluating the individual cases of the Cuban nationals, the Foreign Ministry decided that they did not meet the conditions necessary to gain political asylum under Colombian immigration law. Namely they were not facing persecution due to “race, religion, nationality, membership particular social group or political opinion.”
However, an anonymous official source told website Terra that the Cubans had sought asylum for political reasons as the communist island is currently hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and rebels of the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC.
Some of the asylum seekers missing
The whereabouts of the Cuban citizens were not immediately known, however it was soon determined that four of them had left the country.
“We have tried to find these people, and have spent a week looking for them…four of them have left the country,” said the Foreign Minister.
The two individuals who remained in the country have applied for an extension. Though they have not yet received a decision, there is a possibility that they will be allowed to stay in Colombia.
In a statement made by the Foreign Ministry on Twitter, “When recognition of refugee status is denied, the applicant will be given the option to legalize their immigration status in the country.”
Cuando se niega reconocimiento de condición de refugiado, al solicitante se le da la opción de legalizar su situación migratoria en el país
— Cancillería Colombia (@CancilleriaCol) March 18, 2014
The five men and one woman arrived in Bogota in January, and requested support from the UN Agency of Refugees (UNHCR). They belonged to a group of 11 Cubans who had originally been deported from Ecuador. During a transfer in Bogota on January 1, they refused to board a plane bound for Havana.
The Migration Office of Colombia’s Foreign Ministry granted the six Cubans a safe-conduct pass in January, which allowed them to file a request for asylum.