14ymedio, Havana, 18 December 2023 – Pictures of Diosmary, a 49 year-old Cuban who lives in the airport at Palma, on the Spanish island of Mallorca, accompanied headlines in the local papers this week. In her story of how she arrived there, what her migrant status is, and what she can do next, nothing is very clear apart from the pictures themselves – which show her with just one single suitcase, a coat and a few carrier bags.
“The Cuban Girl” – as she’s called by the newspapers, hoping to garner sympathy for her plight – says that she travelled to Spain in 2012 and that her travel documentation has been in a legal limbo ever since then. She boarded an aircraft as the partner of a Cuban who had Spanish citizenship, but who, she says, later abandoned her.
According to Diosmary – who doesn’t give her surname at any time, although she does say she was born in Pinar del Río – she had got married at the Spanish Consulate in Havana, with the intention of settling in the European country with her husband. However, on arrival on the peninsular the plan fell through and she says she went through innumerable difficulties, many of them to do with her immigration status.
At the time of telling her story at the immigration office, the woman offers a version somewhat riddled with ambiguities
Despite the photographs published by the Balearic press (Diario de Mallorca and Última Hora) clearly showing Diosmary’s situation, at the time of telling her story at the immigration office, the woman offers a version somewhat riddled with ambiguities.
To begin with, she says, the Spanish Consul in Havana asked her, before granting her a visa, for a letter of invitation from someone resident in Spain – this was obligatory even before the migration reforms which came into force in January 2013, but it was the Cuban government which demanded it. Without it, she says, they warned her that she could not return to Cuba, unless it was just as a tourist, having later obtained Spanish residency or nationality. This is what has kept her in Mallorca for 12 years, she explains, though showing an obvious misunderstanding of Cuban law, a misunderstanding which the Spanish press itself also displays.
The sparse details given by Diosmary, of all the legal procedures, contradict 2012 Cuban migration rules, which clarify that Cubans who leave the country for 12 months (24 months in the reformed rules of 2013) lose their right to residency, but never lose their actual nationality, through which – according to the law and unless the State expressly prohibits it – they may return to the island at any time with a Cuban passport.
The woman also claims that the Spanish immigration authority is the cause of her situation, because, as the wife of a Spaniard, she was convinced that she would obtain nationality within a few years.
According to Spanish law, after registering a marriage, the foreign partner of a Spanish national would need to apply for the ’relative of a European national’ card, which would grant temporary residence. After one year they would then be legally resident in the country providing that the marriage remained valid, and after three years they would be eligible for citizenship, according to Book One of the Spanish Civil Code.
Sadly, says Diosmary, her husband “abandoned her” before these deadlines were met, due to “bureaucratic obstacles” to obtaining her papers. The woman doesn’t clarify either whether her ex husband is still living in Spain or whether he returned to Cuba, or even whether they are still married – which would be a key factor in her documentation application, because she travelled as the wife of a Spaniard.
If anything, the woman from Pinar del Río’s story centres more on “the troubles that she has had to endure” during all these years living on the streets
If anything, the woman from Pinar del Río’s story centres more on “the troubles that she has had to endure” during all these years living on the streets, in hostels, in the houses of people who took pity on her, and, as a last resort, in the Son Sant Joan airport, to which she returned for a second time several weeks ago, to seek refuge.
Even here she’s not safe, she says. “Sometimes, men approach me offering money or a place to stay, in exchange for sexual favours, but I can’t sell myself for that”, the Cuban told the Diario de Mallorca.
Right now she just wants “to find a job” so she can get a resident’s permit, but even this desire contradicts Spanish regulations, which currently require six months employment during a period of two years in order to process a residency for work, even if it’s illegal work. Diosmary, although she says she has had some domestic work, as a housekeeper, nanny and similar positions, she hasn’t actually tried to obtain residency via this route either.
In the airport, where she’s well known to the staff, the Cuban lives on “juice and biscuits” provided for her by the Red Cross. That organisation, she says, has mediated for her to get “a passport”, although, yet again, Diosmary doesn’t say whether it would be for returning to Cuba or for continuing with her intention of settling in Spain. “I’ll start again, but in a different way” is the answer she gives to people who ask her what she’ll do when she has the blue passport in her hand. As with the rest of her story, her destination also seems uncertain.
Translated by Ricardo Recluso
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