Cubans seek asylum in Spain
From Herald Wire Services
MADRID - Government officials Tuesday were investigating the political
asylum claims of 212 Cubans who arrived
at the Madrid airport over the weekend.
The number represents the largest wave of Cuban arrivals to seek asylum
or humanitarian refugee status here,
according to Spanish officials. The mass influx appears to have come in response to rumors spread in Havana
suggesting the Spanish government would begin asking for transit visas on all flights from Havana to Moscow with
layovers in Madrid after March 15.
Without such visas, travelers could not enter the airport.
According to a leading Spanish newspaper, El País, the Spanish Ministry
of the Interior gave 32 Cubans the right
to stay on humanitarian grounds on the day of arrival; 60 more were accommodated under this policy Monday;
and by today, police sources at the Madrid airport said, all the Cubans were being processed for conditional entry
into the country.
Most are expected to find shelter at the Red Cross Refugee Center or reunite
with Cuban exiles already living in
Most of the travelers arrived on a traditional Havana-Moscow flight with a layover in Madrid.
On Sunday afternoon, 123 Cubans disembarked from their plane at Barajas
International Airport and immediately
applied for refugee status.
Although few Cubans are granted political asylum, most are allowed to remain
in the country on humanitarian
''In theory, all refugees are allowed to enter Spain, but in practice,
few other nationalities receive the same
treatment,'' said Madrid-based immigration lawyer Juan Ramón Rodríguez. ``Spain is much more permissive with
He said Cubans are believed to receive preferential treatment due to strained
relations between Spain's
moderately conservative government and the government of Fidel Castro.
Several Cubans at Barajas airport in Madrid told the Spanish newspaper
El Mundo that they had come for
economic reasons. They stated that the economy has sunk under the Castro regime.
Herald special correspondent Julienne Gage in Madrid contributed to this report.