Prague, March 12 (CTK) – Every fourth Cuban who seeks asylum in the EU has chosen the Czech Republic and their number surged to 128 last year, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes Saturday.
Officially, there were only 466 Cubans with a permanent or temporary stay at the end of January, roughly the same number as that of Latvians or Pakistanis, LN writes.
However, other hundreds of Cubans are from mixed marriages or have settled down in the Czech Republic and gained its citizenship, it adds.
This is exemplified by the case of the most prominent Cuban emigre, fashion designer Osmany Lafitta, LN writes.
The number of the Cubans who wanted to be granted asylum in the Czech Republic was the same last year as in the previous five years taken together, it adds.
Due to this, Cubans reached the third place from among asylum seekers right after Ukrainians and Syrians, LN writes.
Cubans are not in the first three nations seeking asylum in any other European country but in the Czech Republic, it adds.
Only Hungary recorded a higher number of Cuban asylum seekers last year, LN writes.
Cubans’ unusual interest in asylum in the Czech Republic has one peculiarity. As there is no direct air connection between Prague and Havana, the Cubans must come to the Czech Republic via a Western European destination, LN writes.
Experts say the Czech Republic’s popularity is caused by historical circumstances, it adds.
“Cubans are not coming here randomly. They know whom to address and the opportunities that expect them upon arrival,” Hana Frankova, from the Organisation for the Help to Refugees, is quoted as saying.
There is also the role of a positive image, LN writes.
Reform-minded economist Valtr Komarek worked as an aide to revolutionary leader Che Guevara between 1964 and 1967, it adds.
Between 1960 and 1989, roughly 700 Cuban students and interns were enrolled at Czechoslovak universities, primarily technical schools, LN writes.
“The Czech Republic has a number of historical links with Cuba and the Czech community of Cubans is of major importance,” Filip Vurm, the Czech consul in Havana, has told the paper.
A role may be played by politics, too. According to the details of the Interior Ministry, Cubans most often cite political persecution in their applications for asylum, LN writes.
Overseas, the Czech Republic is still considered a country listening to Cuban dissidents in the long run, it adds.
Former president Vaclav Havel’s human rights legacy is still present in the Czech foreign policy, LN writes.
Havel was one of the outspoken critics of the Cuban regime, it adds.
However, Cubans are afraid that the prolonged policy of “Havelism” may be soon over, LN writes.
This may be due to the gradual improvement in the relations between the EU and the Cuban Communist regime, it adds.
An agreement on a political dialogue is being drafted and the Czech Republic has also made it indirectly clear that the relations with the ostracised Cuban regime should be returned to normalcy, LN writes.