A new herd of migrants from Cuba seek asylum in Greece after fleeing the economic crisis and political repression in their home country. Greece has been a European port for most of the refugees who come from Africa and Asia. However, the recent trend has seen more and more Cubans find a better life in Greece. The issue caught the attention of the media and the international public on October 28, when 130 Cubans attempted to fly from the Greek island of 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 determined to be 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 claim and collected 400 signatures. Juan reported to Al Jazeera that “[T]here are lawyers, doctors, civil engineers – we are not robbers… We wanted the country that embraces us to see that we can offer things to society, we are not here to extract wealth and return with us, but to be part of society and to contribute to it.
All of the Cuban asylum seekers who were interviewed indicated that Cuba’s economic depression and repression were the main reason that convinced them to leave. Juan added that any Cuban who participated in the protest against the government is arrested and beaten. Although coming to Greece has its challenges, Cuban asylum seekers are committed to staying in a place that respects democracy and human rights, unlike Cuba.
We have seen this trend repeat itself all over the world, where people living under repression are looking for ways to leave and find a better place to settle. While Cubans can go, where exactly are they welcome? More and more developed countries like the United States have made it more difficult for refugees to enter. In this world full of human rights violations and repression, there must 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 areas in distress.
Cuba is an authoritarian one-party state that severely restricts basic civil liberties. This one-party system rules out opportunities for Cuban citizens to make structural or impactful changes to their current system, which has prompted them to look 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 return to Cuba or seek asylum elsewhere. The Greek government is not prepared for this new wave, as it has virtually no Spanish interpreters for Cubans. The situation looks rather grim for these asylum seekers, as many European countries impose strict limits on the reception of foreign refugees. In America, former President Donald Trump made it more difficult for refugees to arrive in the Cuban region. Although new President Joe Biden has a more open policy regarding refugee admissions, the US asylum service is still in bad shape, according to Al Jazeera.
A clear implication is that Cuban asylum seekers are rejected and return home penniless. With many other conflicts around the world – like the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan – it seems Cubans are low on the human rights organization’s priority list. There is no sign of improvement in Cuban politics and more and more people continue to be oppressed. There is no real solution, but one suggestion is that international organizations closely monitor human rights violations and arrests by Cuban authorities. Agencies like the United States could also impose restrictions or sanctions on Cuba if human rights violations persist. Changing the entire Cuban regime is an impossible task, but collectively countries could try to pressure others to be more lenient towards their citizens.