A group of 59 Cuban exiles detained by the Mexican government for alleged immigration violations are claiming Mexico has violated their human rights and are threatening to hunger strike if they are not allowed to seek political asylum in the United States.
The group, according to the Associated Press, is currently being held in a detention center in southern Mexico, where their immigration status has not been resolved since they arrived in Mexico late last year. As Mexico has signed a pact with Cuba to return all exiles that reach their territory, the government’s immigration agency claimed it is “waiting for consular authorities to confirm the migrants’ nationality to begin the process to return them to Cuba.”
The exiles note that they have not received any new information since being detained, and have no documents that would allow them to either return to Cuba and likely become political prisoners or seek asylum in the United States.
“We demand that we be provided with the documents necessary to continue our voyage to the United States,” the refugees said in a joint statement mailed to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, “as we do not need or want to formalize our migratory status in this country, because it was not our intention to be immigrants in Mexico.” Barring that solution, they write, “we declare ourselves on hunger strike.”
The Cuban exiles also contest that they have suffered physical and psychological mistreatment at the hands of the National Institute of Immigration. They note that being returned to Cuba after attempting an escape would be “disastrous” for them and their families, who the Cuban government would also punish. “We would be submitted to a process where we are at the mercy of a dictatorial, enslaving government, that does not respect the most fundamental human rights, that can demand the deportation of any Cuban without valid motive and with no explanation.”
The letter concludes that “the most humiliating thing is that the Mexican government in this way assumes the sad role of mediator to permit our human rights and freedoms to be violated.”
The National Institute of Immigration has denied that any of the Cubans are on hunger strike, though it is too early for definitive reports to have surfaced. The agency also denied any human rights abuses in prison, and noted that the exiles were being fed and given free phone calls to family members while their status is resolved.