Cuban asylum seekers arrested in Trinidad and Tobago

OFF TO COURT: Cuban refugees are escorted into a police maxi outside the Belmont Police Station yesterday before they were transported to the Port of Spain

PORT OF SPAIN, (Reuters) – Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago yesterday arrested 75 Cubans who are seeking asylum in the Caribbean island nation, after the group camped out for about three weeks outside the United Nations office in the capital, seeking humanitarian aid.

The Cuban migrants will be charged with obstructing free passage on the street, Trinidad and Tobago police said in a statement.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Wednesday it planned to bring the group’s plight to the government’s attention. Some who applied for asylum said the local authorities were not taking their cases seriously, and complained of not being able to work while their cases were under review.

Local news outlet the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported that the group this week numbered 100 people. An image shows part of the group outside the UNHCR office, holding aloft a white banner that read: “Where are the human rights? Cubans anti-Castro and slaves of UNHCR demanded freedom.”

Trinidad and Tobago has also arrested scores of Venezuelans it said were living and working in the country illegally. Thousands of Venezuelans have fled devastating poverty in their home country, which has spiraled into economic crisis.

The UNHCR in April criticized the country for what it called the forced deportation of 82 Venezuelans seeking asylum. The government insisted their departure was voluntary.

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