HAVANA TIMES — Only two days after re-opening its embassy in Havana, the United States made it very clear that Cubans will not be granted asylum or offered any kind of legal protection in their diplomatic headquarters.
The announcement by the US State Department came in response to rumors that circulated and reached different media in South Florida, posing the question as to whether Cubans residing on the island would now be able to request political asylum at the US embassy in Havana.
The catalyst behind these speculations was a declaration made by Cuban-American Republican congressman for Florida, Mario Diaz-Balart, who, last Monday, suggested problems could arise if Cubans decided to seek protection from the embassy.
The State Department statement was made public on Wednesday.
“In response to false rumors we’ve seen reported on, the Department of State wishes to make a clarification on the following topics, as to the question of whether an embassy (in this case the US Embassy in Havana) constitutes US territory and allows Cubans to request asylum by virtue of the dry feet/ wet feet policy:
- Contrary to popular belief, the US Embassy is not US territory.
- Foreigners cannot be granted asylum within the space of US diplomatic and consular headquarters abroad.
- Under US law, individuals must be physically present in the United States to request asylum.”
Immigration lawyers concurred that the speculations divulged by some media in Miami following Diaz-Balart’s declarations are erroneous.
An Established Practice
“For years, thousands of Cubans have made their petitions for political asylum from Havana, but what US laws grant them is protection as refugees or humanitarian visas. Asylum is a condition granted only when present in US territory,” lawyer Willy Allen explained.
Allen pointed out that the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), in effect since 1966, only protects those who enter US territory using a visa or through a parole program.
“US embassies around the world process refugee requests and humanitarian visas, as in the case of the special program aimed at Cuban medical doctors who abandon their missions (established in 2006), but they do not grant political asylum, nor are they havens for such asylum seekers,” the lawyer clarified. “Any person who tries to remain within the diplomatic headquarters by force will never obtain the benefit of traveling to the United States.”
On the Right to Asylum
In addition, the United States is not a signatory to the right to asylum, as established by the Caracas Pan-American Convention of 1854, ratified by the 7th International American Conference held in Montevideo in 1954.
The signatories to this agreement, part of Latin America’s humanitarian tradition, are Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Uruguay.
A person in search of diplomatic or territorial asylum could approach the embassies of these countries, provided they are not a fugitive from justice for common crimes.
The United States and Cuba officially reopened their embassies on the dawn of July 20th. The Cuban flag was raised at the diplomatic headquarters in Washington during a ceremony with 500 guests and a high representative of the State Department. A similar ceremony is planned in Havana for August 14, to be attended by Secretary of State John Kerry.