8 Cubans to spend Christmas in prison …”WE WANT TO GO TO THE US”

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Eight Cubans, who are seeking asylum in the United States, will spend  Christmas in prison after they were denied bail when they appeared before a Port-of-Spain magistrate on Thursday.

The eight, Yaneisy Santana Hurtado, 37, Ramon Arbolaez Abreu, 43, Ailys Arbolaez Santana, 18, Yusnes Reyes Santana, 20, Gladys Lisandra Perez Molina, 22, Lisandra Farray Rodriquez, 29, Pedro Santana Madeo and Yuriet Pedrozo Gonzales, 30, all pleaded not guilty before Magistrate Rehana Ali to the charge of wilfully obstructing the free passage of people at Chancery Lane, Port-of-Spain on Wednesday.

The charge, under the Summary Offences Act Section 64:1(n), carries the penalty of a $200 fine or a month in jail. The eight were ordered to re-appear on January 8. The time spent on remand before their next court date is half the jail sentence.

Sharlene Jaggernauth, who represented the Children’s Authority, made an application to Magistrate Ali to have three Cuban children, ages nine, three and one, placed officially in the care of the authority.

Jaggernauth later withdrew her request, saying it will be filed in the High Court instead, after there was an issue with whether the legislation demanded that the children be present in court during the application. The children are currently being housed at a children’s home in Belmont.

Jonathan Soo Hon, who represented the Immigration Department, said the eight do not have detention orders against them, but there were supervision orders against Lisandra Rodriquez and Pedro Madeo.

He added though that given that there were no detention orders in place, the supervision orders were effectively null and void. Ali was informed by police that the eight will also be traced by Interpol to determine if they have committed any criminal offences outside of this country.

Police arrested the eight Cubans and took their children on Wednesday afternoon while they were camped at Chancery Lane. The arrest came after the eight refused to relocate to the Living Waters Community for two weeks, following talks with stakeholders seeking their interest.

The arrested Cubans formed part of a group of 18, children included, who are seeking resettlement in the US and other countries as political refugees from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The overall group claimed they fled Cuba because they were persecuted for “being peaceful opponents to the totalitarian regime of the Castro brothers.” They sold all their belongings and journeyed to Trinidad and Tobago legally by sea and air hoping to make it to the US, but they first wanted to seek asylum so they won’t be deported back to Cuba.

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