Friday, August 26, 2011

Would-be Cuban defectors from Guyana face tough times- Wikileaks

Several Guyana-based Cuban doctors, who wanted to defect to the United States, had fled the airport and gone into hiding, fearing that Guyanese and Cuban officials would have tracked them down and return them to Cuba, a cable released by Wikileaks has revealed.

Having worked for meagre salaries and unable to save enough, they usually have to endure months of waiting to know whether their parole applications are approved.

Six Cuban doctors had gone into the United States embassy and were interviewed for Signficant Public Benefit Parole under the Cuban Medical Personnel program.

“Three of the pending applicants are in hiding, reporting that they cannot move freely for fear that Guyanese police or Cuban embassy personnel may apprehend them and repatriate them to Cuba,” the cable stated back then.

One of the doctors complained that the Cuban government canceled his passport after he refused to board a plane to ostensibly accompany a six doctor back to Cuba. He told the US embassy that he felt that he was being tricked after Cuban authorities might have been informed that he had visited the American embassy here to request parole.

“The applicant refused to board the plane because of a hunch that he was being tricked into repatriating himself. Subsequently, Cuban Embassy authorities told him that his passport would be canceled immediately. They also removed him from the medical brigade and labeled him a deserter,” the cable states.

The Wikileaks cable also reveals that Cuba had dispatched a new manager to Guyana in December 2006, aimed at cracking down on Cuban medical personnel who have intentions to request parole or flee Guyana.The revelation, which is contained in a March 30, 2007 cable from the US embassy here to the State Department, appears to confirm previous news media reports that the Guyana government has taken a policy not to grant citizenship to Cuban doctors who refuse to return to Havana even if they marry Guyanese. The embassy reported to the State Department that the renewal of the doctor's visa is done done six months prior to the conclusion of their medical mission so that the termination of their legal status will coincide with their repatriation to Cuba.

The cable notes that Cuban medical personnel who apply for parole are ostracized. Any Cuban medical professional who maintains communication with parole applicants is at risk of losing his/her legal status in Guyana and job with the medical brigade.

The embassy said three of the parole applicants told the Consular Officer that upon arrival in Guyana members of the Cuban Medical Brigade are forced to surrender their passports and they are returned just before they are about to board the plane to return to Cuba at the end of their two-year stint. Those who went to the embassy with their passports said they fled the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and went into hiding after they were chased.

“The applicants that came to the Embassy with their passports risked arrest by fleeing from the airport rather than returning to Cuba. They reported that "official-looking" people chased them as they ran to a taxi and drove away from the airport. They went into hiding until they felt safe enough to come to the U.S. Embassy to file an application for parole,” states the cable.

The embassy told the State Department that the Cuban doctor who was approved for parole was hesitant to travel because he feared for the safety of his female colleagues whose applications had been still pending. Three of the pending applicants had been in hiding and had reported that they could not have moved freely for fear that Guyanese police or Cuban embassy personnel might have apprehended them and repatriated them to Cuba.

“All of the parole applicants expect their families in Cuba to be targeted for reprisals because of their failure to return to Cuba after the completion of their mission,” the cable added.

The embassy said that Cuban applicants for parole told them that the only reason that the US embassy in Guyana does not receive many more parole applications is that they are terrified of being seen entering the U.S. Embassy. Consular Officers, according to the cable, sense that Cuban medical personnel are willing to take the risk of requesting parole; however once they do, they are faced with months of delay and uncertainty. “Since many applicants are requesting parole after they have completed the medical mission, they are no longer legally employed and unable to subsist on their meager savings while awaiting a decision from the Department of Homeland Security that can take months to process.

Against the backdrop of meager funds on which to live, the cable states Cuban medical personnel who have applied for parole rely on former colleagues for assistance. “Presently, they rely on the assistance that some former colleagues are willing to give them at much risk to their own status.”

“Local charities can offer very little assistance to political refugees. Moreover, every time the applicants have to leave their hiding place to ask for assistance, they risk detention and deportation because of their lack of status,” the cable adds.

Cuban medical personnel, the cable states, receive very low wages compared to their Guyanese counterparts, and their contracts require them to relinquish fifty percent of any overtime pay to the Central Unit for Medical Cooperation (UCCM) in Havana. The Cuban doctor's monthly salary is equivalent to US$500 from which US$100 is deducted on a monthly basis and contractually remitted back to the UCCM. Overtime is accumulated at the rate of US$1.25 per hour, and doctors on the overnight shift make US$2.50 per night. In comparison, Guyanese doctors typically make US$1,500 per month.

Source: Demerarawaves

  • Go to Home Page
  • No comments:

    Post a Comment