Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 07:01 GMT

Cuba: Update to CUB37062.E of 1 June 2001 on the treatment of persons who have overstayed their exit visas, illegally exited, or made a refugee claim abroad and returned

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 November 2002
Citation / Document Symbol CUB40399.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Cuba: Update to CUB37062.E of 1 June 2001 on the treatment of persons who have overstayed their exit visas, illegally exited, or made a refugee claim abroad and returned, 1 November 2002, CUB40399.E, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) World Report 2002 on Cuba:

The government continued to prosecute people for "illegal exit" if they attempted to leave the island without first obtaining official permission to do so. Such permission was sometimes denied arbitrarily, or made contingent on the purchase of an expensive exit permit.

In June, Pedro Riera Escalante, a former Cuban consul and intelligence officer in Mexico City, was sentenced by a military court to six years in prison for leaving Cuba illegally, using false documents, and bribing officials to allow his departure. Riera Escalante had broken with his government and sought political asylum in Mexico, but he was forcibly deported by the Mexican authorities in October.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) stated however that as part of migration agreements signed between Cuba and the United States, "Cuba formally agreed not to punish interdicted and returned Cubans for their illegal departure" (2002). In addition, "U.S. officials routinely monitored returned migrants to verify that the Cuban government did not mistreat them" (USCR 2002).

While the USCR did not report any incidents of mistreatment of refugees who returned to Cuba, there were a number of Cubans who perished in their attempt to reach the United States (2002). More specifically, in 2001, "several boats capsized, resulting in the deaths of at least 37 persons - including 15 children" (USCR 2002).

Various news agencies reported that 21 young Cubans hijacked a bus and crashed it into the Mexican Embassy in Havana (AP 1 Mar. 2002; Guardian Unlimited 1 Mar. 2002; World Press Review 12 Mar. 2002). Approximately 150 Cubans had gathered at the site of the incident and were arrested when they tried to gain entry into the Mexican Embassy (AP 1 Mar. 2002). Moreover, "[o]nce inside the embassy compound, the 21 would-be emigrants began demanding exit visas and threatened to hurl themselves off the embassy roof if the police approached" (World Press Review 12 Mar. 2002). The Mexican Embassy denied the Cubans visas "because they never applied for political asylum and could not demonstrate political persecution" (ibid.). The 21 Cubans were subsequently arrested in a pre-dawn raid on 1 March 2002 and there was "no information on where they were taken or what charges might be filed against them" (AP 1 Mar. 2002). As for the 150 Cubans detained during the incident, Cuban president Fidel Castro noted that those "arrested that night would appear before local tribunals and receive sentences according to the severity of their crimes" (World Press Review 12 Mar. 2002).

No further information to that included in CUB37062.E of 1 June 2001 could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Associated Press (AP). 1 March 2002. Vivian Sequera. "Youths Evicted From Mexican Embassy." [Accessed 31 Oct. 2002]

Guardian Unlimited. 1 March 2002. Daniel Schweimler. "Cuban Asylum Seekers Storm Mexican Embassy." [Accessed 31 Oct. 2002]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2002. Human Rights Watch World Report 2002. "Cuba." [Accessed 31 Oct. 2002]

U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR). 2002. Country Report: Cuba. [Accessed 31 Oct. 2002]

World Press Review. 12 March 2002. Nick Miroff. "Station's Broadcasts Were 'an Open Invitation to Occupy Embassy': Cuba Blames Radio Marti for Mexican Embassy Incident." [Accessed 31 Oct. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

World News Connection (WNC)

Internet sites

Amnesty International

Canadian Embassy in Cuba

Cuba Free Press

CubaNet News

El Nuevo Herald [Miami]

Embassy of Cuba in Canada

Freedom House

Search engine


Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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