14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Miami, November 16, 2018 — A group of Cubans who had protested for days at the UN offices in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, were arrested by the authorities of that country on Friday, the police of the Caribbean island confirmed to 14ymedio. The migrants were unhappy with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) after the agency withdrew monthly financial aid in October.
The migrants were arrested after a meeting yesterday afternoon, during which a UNHCR representative warned them that, if they did not abandon the protest so that their asylum requests could be processed, “they would be detained,” Yaquelin Vera Morfa, one of the migrants arrested, told this newspaper today.
A worker who collaborates with UNHCR, and who prefers to remain anonymous, explained that the arrests took place at around six in the morning. “They are detained at a police precinct called Belmont,” she explained. According to Barbara Enríquez, one of the women arrested who was able to get in touch by telephone with this newspaper from the police station, some 70 Cubans are with her.
A part of the group of Cubans, who this Tuesday had used plastic bags to tie themselves to the fence of the UN compound in the capital in order to request a meeting with UNHCR officials to discuss their asylum requests, were interviewed this Thursday by the organization.
In that meeting, which took place in a courtyard near the Venezuelan embassy, the UNHCR representative “did not want to discuss any issues” with the 15 representatives of the more than a hundred Cubans who are protesting their situation, according to Vera Morfa, and he also told them that the agency’s office was going to be closed for the next two months.
The police have assured that all the Cubans are well and, although they have not provided more details, Bárbara Enríquez has commented that until now the treatment “has been good.” 14ymedio has tried to repeatedly contact, without success, the responsible parties from UNHCR to learn their version of what happened.
The migrants began the protest two weeks ago after UNHCR decided in October to withdraw the economic aid that they received monthly and that allowed many to pay rent for a place to live, said Vera Morfa.
Last Tuesday, the day the migrants tied themselves up at the UNHCR headquarters, the government of Trinidad and Tobago described the situation of the Cubans in that country as “very complex.” The Caribbean nation does not have legislation with respect to refugee matters and asylum claims, although it is a signatory to the Convention on the Status of Refugees. This prevents these Cuban migrants from working legally, having a bank account or obtaining a driver’s license, among other difficulties.
“Everything has been very hard here, from the first moment I arrived in this country and I realized that there was no legislation for refugees it was a blow, now I have refugee status from UNHCR but knowing that there is no legislation here they took back the aid and left me with nothing. It’s been a month already that we haven’t gotten it. Because of not having that money, many of us were unable to pay the rent and that’s why we’re here,” lamented Vera.
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
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