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Cablegate: Honduras Seeing Increasing Numbers of Cuban

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS TEGUCIGALPA 002722

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR WHA DAS FISK, WHA/CCA, AND WHA/CEN
STATE FOR PRM, PRM/ENA, PRM/ECA, AND PRM/PRP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SMIG PREF PGOV PREL MARR CU HO
SUBJECT: HONDURAS SEEING INCREASING NUMBERS OF CUBAN
RAFTERS; MOST USE COUNTRY AS WAY STATION TO THE U.S.

REF: A. USDAO TEGUCIGALPA HO 021257Z NOV 04

B. USDAO TEGUCIGALPA HO 241030Z SEP 04

1. (SBU) Honduras, for various reasons, is emerging as a new,
preferred port for Cuban migrants by sea. Primarily,
Honduras acts as a way station for Cubans on their way to the
U.S. The route appears to usually be the same: migrants
leave from Comaguey in the Santa Cruz province of Cuba,
stopping for supplies and rest on Grand Cayman Islands, then
continuing either to the Honduran Bay Islands or the north
coast of Honduras, according to Government of Honduras (GOH)
Immigration officials and local press reports.

2. (SBU) There have been recent cases where Cuban migrants
landed in the Honduran Swan Islands, which are even farther
out to sea than the Bay Islands. This new stopping point has
created numerous problems for Honduran Immigration and the
Honduran Navy, because there is neither the infrastructure
nor the resources to deal with migrants who land in this
remote location. The only GOH presence on the Swan Islands
is a small Navy detachment, which can barely feed itself,
much less unanticipated visitors. There are no immigration
officials on the islands and basic communication with the
mainland is sketchy.

3. (U) Upon arrival in Honduran territory, the GOH has little
to do with addressing the migrants' day-to-day needs (the GOH
lacks funds and facilities to do so). Instead, while the
migrants' status is being established during first 60 days,
the local NGO representative for the United Nations High
Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) acts as a legal and
humanitarian buffer, providing medical care, food, and
shelter.

4. (SBU) As a signatory to the various human rights
conventions and the 1951 Convention for the Protection of
Refugees, Honduran Immigration authorities must by law accept
migrants who solicit refugee status, that is, until their
individual circumstances are properly investigated. Although
each case is addressed individually, most of these migrants
do not fulfill the requirements for refugee status. Instead,
based on the humanitarian or economic reasons of each
migrant, the GOH often grants a different migrant status to
each individual case, awarding migrants temporary or
permanent residency, according to Honduran Immigration. One
status frequently granted by Immigration is territorial
asylum, which is different from the status of political
asylum given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

5. (SBU) If the GOH does not grant residency, refugee, or
some other status to the migrants, there are very few other
options. There is no formal immigration agreement between
the GOH and the Government of Cuba (GOC). In order for the
GOH to deport migrants back to Cuba, they must request
permission from the GOC. These requests normally take
between four and six months to process and are nearly always
turned down. As a result, there have been only a couple of
cases where Cuban migrants voluntarily returned to Cuba, each
time with the assistance of the Cuban Embassy in Honduras.

6. (SBU) As of November 24, 140 Cuban rafters had landed on
Honduran territory this year, double the number from 2003.
(Another 13 landed in the Bay Islands the first week of
December.) Of those that have arrived this year, eighty
percent have supposedly remained in Honduras, whereas the
rest have moved on through Guatemala and Mexico in hopes of
crossing the border into the U.S. Honduran immigration
officials tell EmbOffs, however, that almost all of the Cuban
migrants (even those granted permission to stay long-term in
Honduras) eventually try to immigrate, legally or illegally,
to the U.S.
Pierce

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