BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia said it could not take asylum requests from six Cubans who have been in the international transit area of the capital’s airport since Jan. 1 because they are not officially in the country.
In a statement Thursday, the foreign ministry said the six individuals were part of a larger group of 11, who arrived from Ecuador after they were refused entry in the neighboring country. Five of them returned to Cuba voluntarily, the government said.
“Colombian law expressly denies [asylum requests] when the foreigners are in international transit zones, legally they have not entered the country,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Immigration authorities have not had access to their passports, the government added.
Ecuador’s lax immigration laws have made it a popular destination for Cubans trying to relocate to the region or make their way to the United States. But as Havana began relaxing travel restrictions last year, making it easier for Cubans to go abroad, Ecuador has started to tighten its rules.
It was not immediately clear why the 11 Cuban travelers were denied entry to the country.
Colombia said the asylum seekers had flown to Ecuador from El Salvador and Peru. Only one of them had a layover in Bogotá. When they were denied entry to Ecuador, “the airline should have taken them back to their point of embarkation,” the government said.