Greek authorities said there had been large numbers of Cubans seeking asylum in Greece in recent months.
The increasing arrivals were put in the spotlight on October 28 when about 130 Cubans tried to fly from the island of Zakynthos, in the Ionian Sea, to Milan, in northern Italy.
“When police saw one Cuban passport after another, they put us all in a separate room,” said Pedro, one of the asylum seekers.
Juan, another Cuban asylum seeker, has enlisted about 400 Cubans for an asylum petition.
The list included mostly students and professionals below 50 years old, many with children.
“There are lawyers, doctors, civil engineers – we’re not brigands… we’re not here to extract wealth and go home, but to be part of society and contribute to it,” Juan said.
However, Vasilis Papadopoulos, manager of the Greek Council for Refugees, a legal aid charity for asylum seekers, said it would be very difficult for the Cubans to apply for asylum as they would need to register at a reception center like those on the islands of the east Aegen, which is the usual entry route for refugees, or apply for asylum online, which could take days.
“There are not even Spanish interpreters because this is a new wave … the authorities do not register [Cubans] as asylum seekers and force them to go back to Cuba or find their way elsewhere,” Papadopoulos added.
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