Freedom of Movement.


Recent news on Freedom of Movement

Recent news on rafters - balseros

Recent news on migration - emigracion


Universal Declaration of Human Rights:


Article 13.

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.


Recent news on migration from Cuba


Castro's Cuba.


1. Right to freedom of movement and residence within Cuba.


2. Right to leave the country.

3. 2008 Petition for more freedom.


4. Exit visa and "invitation" to be abolished in 2008?

Cuban Laws:

1. Right to freedom of movement and residence within Cuba.

Excerpt from "Buscandote Havana"

Decree 217: Heightened Control of Internal Movement

In a public address on April 4, 1997, President Castro urged the populace to fight against the "indiscipline" favored by the "enemy" and demonstrated by "illegal immigration" to Havana and announced that the state was planning to halt such movement.184 He justified such actions by explaining that free movement to the capital would endanger Cuba's security due to the state's insufficient control and knowledge of the identities of Havana's residents and guests. International human rights law assures the right to liberty of movement within a country's borders and the right to enter and leave one's country of origin.185 President Castro called upon the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (Comités para la Defensa de la Revolución, CDRs), pro-government groups that have taken part in intimidations of government opponents, to work with the police to gather information on Havana residents. The president also mentioned problems with overcrowding, overbuilding, and crime that had resulted from increased population pressures in Havana. On April 22, 1997, President Castro signed Decree 217, creating internal migratory regulations for Havana.

Decree 217 explains restrictions on internal movement as being due to public health, welfare, and public order concerns. While these issues in some circumstances justify narrowly-tailored restrictions on movement, President Castro's prior statements highlighting the government's interest in minimizing "indiscipline" and maintaining tight control over citizens' movement for security reasons call into question the government's motivation in creating Decree 217. By late April 1997, the Cuban press announced that more than 1,600 "illegal residents" of Havana had been returned to their home provinces "using persuasive methods."186 By mid-May, many more Havana residents had received government notices that they had forty-eight hours to regularize their status in the city or face fines and the "obligation to return immediately to their place of origin."187 The government's provision of an extremely brief period for Havana residents to demonstrate the legitimacy of their presence in the capital raised additional concerns about whether the Cuban authorities were ensuring sufficient due process guarantees. By June 1998, the Cuban government reported that some 27,717 people had left Havana since the law took effect, although not necessarily due to its application, while 22,560 others had moved to Havana, resulting in a net population decrease of over 5,000 residents.188 While diplomats noted that the law had not resulted in massive round-ups and deportations, Cuban migrants to Havana expressed frustration that they could not choose where to live and that police demands for their personal papers and proof of "legal" residency had increased.189

Decree 217 prohibits persons in other provinces from moving into Havana on the grounds that if internal migration was left unchecked, the city's problems regarding housing, public transport, water, and electrical supplies would become worse; visits to the city were permissible. Police frequently checked the identification of persons on the streets, and if someone from another province was found living in Havana illegally, that person was fined $12 (300 pesos) and sent back home. Fines were $40 (1,000 pesos) for those who resided illegally in the neighborhoods of Old Havana and Cerro. Human rights observers noted that while the decree affected migration countrywide, it targeted individuals and families predominantly of African descent from the more impoverished eastern provinces.

On June 1, police in Havana province entered the neighborhood of Buena Esperanza to remove persons from the eastern provinces living in the area without authorization. An unknown number of men were removed in trucks on that date, while women and children were given 72 hours to depart (see Section 1.d.).

in 1997, Castro implemented Decree 217, which was designed to "control the migration flow from poorer provinces to the capital city of Havana." In effect, this specifically targeted the poor black and mulatto population concentrated in the eastern provinces. "The decree also resulted in numerous credible reports that said many desperate blacks and mulatto squatters, not having official permission to reside in Havana under Decree 217, are forcibly evicted from their homes and sent back to the countryside.

A new documentary by a young Cuban filmmaker has cast a harsh spotlight on the housing and other serious problems faced by the thousands of Cubans who move illegally from the provinces to Havana in search of better lives.

The migrants, mostly from eastern Cuba and known as ''Palestinians'' because they lack legal residency in Havana, often are forced to live in shanty towns on the edges of the capital and expelled by police back to their hometowns.

''The phenomenon of forcible return continues to exist, although the police proceed silently and with some secrecy,'' said Elizardo Sánchez, president of the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Sánchez estimated that dozens of people are expelled from Havana every week by bus or train after being detained for failure to produce documents confirming their legal residence in Havana. Repeat violators are taken to court, although the sanctions consist only of fines and official ''banishment'' from the capital for several years.


Source: "Film casts harsh light on problems in Havana."
Original source link:

Archive copy:


Also see:

Cuba and Inequality


This "law" is also often used to expel people the regime deems "undesirable" from Havana were access to international diplomatic representations, communication and the international press is easier.

It is used to silence those that report on abuses in Cuba.


Provincial journalist detained and expelled from Havana


"We condemn the detention and expulsion of Ernesto Corría Cabrera. It is nothing more than a means of stopping him from working in his own capital city as a journalist," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Cuban authorities must allow all journalists to move freely through the country."

After reviewing Corría Cabrera's I.D. card, the officer informed him that he was being detained for violating a decree that requires Cuban citizens who reside outside Havana to request a special permit to remain in the capital for more than 24 hours, the journalist told CPJ. Independent journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe told CPJ this decree is often used to deport independent journalists and dissidents from Havana.


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2. Right to leave the country.

The Penal Code also defines the crime of salida illegal del país, "illegal exit from country." Under Penal Code Articles 216 and 217, those caught trying to leave the country without the permission of the government can be fined or imprisoned for up to three years if they have not used violence and up to eight years if force or intimidation is used. In cases where passenger vessels or airplanes are hijacked, the charge is usually one of piratería, "piracy." Under Penal Code Article 117, piracy carries a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment, or a possible sentence of death if there is loss of life or risk to the lives of others.25

In the past three decades, thousands of Cubans have been imprisoned for trying to leave the island without permission. In 1994, illegal exit prisoners were thought to constitute the largest category of political prisoners in Cuba. In 1990 alone, there were 335 inmates convicted of illegal exit serving time in a single prison in Havana, the Combinado del Este.26

Under the 1995 U.S.-Cuba immigration agreement, the Cuban government promised to "ensure that no action is taken against those migrants returned to Cuba as a consequence of their attempt to emigrate illegally."27 However, the Cuban government still has neither eliminated nor amended Penal Code Articles 216 and 217 to reflect this commitment. Although recently there appears to be a trend toward lighter penalties – e.g., fines and/or house arrest – particularly in cases of first-time offenders, Articles 216 and 217 are still used to punish people for trying to leave the country without permission. That underscores the fact that the threat of punishment continues to hang over the heads of those who are returned to Cuba following attempts to leave without authorization. The current status of the U.S.-Cuba immigration agreement and the condition of Cubans who have been repatriated to Cuba are discussed in Chapter XVI, Section C, of this report.


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PVE - Permiso de Viaje al Extranjero.

Does this mean that Cubans are totally unable to travel? No. Cubans travel on official missions and can travel privately given a government permit. These permits are referred to as the PVE (Permiso de Viaje al Extranjero) commonly referred to as the "carta blanca".

The process starts with a "carta de invitación", an invitation to a Cuban by a foreign national (resident). This invitation needs to be made in a Cuban consulate (abroad) and can no longer be made at a "consultaría jurídica internacional" in Cuba since May 2007. In this "letter" the foreigner formally invites the Cuban to visit him or her in his country. After getting a passport the Cuban can then apply for the PVE. The PVE is authorized (or not) based on the information the governments holds about the person. A criminal record, bad marks in the permanent record for any form of civil disobedience, a bad CDR report, relatives that are involved in dissident activities, to be "bajo de FAR" (of age to be called up for military service, but not having performed it yet) which means basically from 16 onwards, to be "too young" and even a further education (medical doctors) are common reasons to refuse the permit to travel. There is no formal way to appeal the decision. It is basically up to the government to allow or disallow travel. The PVE allows a stay abroad of up to 11 months. The whole cost of the process (invitation - passport - PVE) is over U$ 600.

Note that this includes the PVE for one month. For each additional month (up to a total of 11) an extra fee needs to be paid. A Cuban that tries to return to Cuba without a valid PVE (with paid extensions) in his passport will actually be refused by international airlines as they are held liable for the cost if they allow people with an invalid PVE on the plane. The risk is that the person is not allowed to enter Cuba.

Important update:

A new Cuban government regulation that took effect Wednesday May 2 2007 will make it more difficult for people abroad to invite relatives and friends on the island to visit them.

Resolution 87/2007, issued by the Foreign Ministry, requires such invitations to be submitted through Cuban consulates abroad, notarized and in accordance with the laws of the country where they are requested.

But the consulates will ''have the authority to reject the invitation when there are elements that recommend that,'' added the resolution, published in the official gazette.

May 2007 rules:


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PRE - Permiso de Residencia al Extranjero.

A Cuban that marries a person that is a non-resident thereby has no automatic right to join his or her partner. In order to be allowed to join your partner abroad one has to obtain a PRE (Permiso de Residencia al Extranjero). This is the formal permit for a Cuban to take up residence outside of Cuba. The document also entitles the bearer to take up residence abroad while being allowed to enter and leave Cuba without the need to apply for any further travel documents. It also ensures that inheritance and property rights are maintained (some limits apply). Whenever returning to Cuba to stay in his former home or with relatives the Cuban has to report his presence to the authorities.

Again restrictions apply. The best know exception is medical personnel. First only doctors, now also nurses. But also recent graduates from other faculties that have not performed their  complete "free service" to the state are not allowed to leave the country to join their partners.

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Medical doctors: the special case.


The story of two young Cuban doctors that fled from their "mission" in Venezuela.

Recent News on the plight of medical doctors

As lots of university graduates medical doctors have to perform a number of years of free service for the state. Doctors had to perform 3 years as service in "payment" for their education.

Cuba - Act No. 1254 respecting social service and its regulations issued by Decree No. 3771 of 1974 provided that Cuban citizens who graduate in higher education or as middle-level technicians or through regular courses for primary school teachers, are obliged to perform social service (for the duration of three years), in accordance with the planning and priorities for development work laid down by the Government. Unjustified refusal to perform social service entails temporary or permanent disqualifications from exercising his or her profession, which is recorded in the workbook of the person concerned. The Government has indicated that the provisions relative to temporary or permanent disqualification and everybody knows.

This system has worked for years. Being a doctor (or other university graduate) was no real impediment to leave the country once one had completed the 3 years service.

From 1999 onwards the attitude changed as the Cuban regime had started to "rent out doctors" to other countries (1) and NGO's. The Cuban government realized that its doctors had a "commercial value" and that allowing them to emigrate (even after completing their obligations to the government) would reduce Cuba's "earning power". Doctors were sent (against payment) to countries like Venezuela (doctors for oil), Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, ... The Cuban regime tried to deny these deals (especially in the case of Venezuela), but was soon disproved. The whole industry of renting out doctors brings in more than U$ 750 million annually for Cuba. "I think medical services will have replaced tourism as our most important source of revenue in 2005," said Garcia, who directs the Cuban Economy Study Center at Havana University. (2)

1999: MINSAP regulation 54.14 (3)
"Moreover, since 1999, Cuban physicians have not been able to leave Cuba with proper documentation and permits according to the MINSAP regulation Number 54.14 According to this regulation, medical doctors and dentists must serve 3 to 5 years in designated areas in the island of Cuba before they are considered for a permission to leave the island. In this manner, Cuban physicians are blatantly discriminated and made to suffer higher penalties than the rest of the professionals. "

Note that it says "considered" for permission. that permission is in no way guaranteed and this process itself can again take years.

"Resolution 54 denies exit permits to medical professionals until they have performed 3 to 5 years of service in their profession after requesting permission to travel abroad."

" In February a group of 31 medical professionals sent a letter to the authorities protesting the Government's decision not to allow them to proceed with their legal emigration. These medical professionals were granted immigrant status by other countries, but the Ministry of Health had refused to grant them permission to secure exit permits. The doctors made the document public. The Government responded by terminating their employment, relocating them to remote and undesirable health care facilities, or ostracizing them." (4)

In 2002 health minister Damodar Peña Penton said that doctors who want to emigrate should face stiffer requirements.

"The health department requires that doctors who request permission to emigrate spend three to five years at posts specified by authorities in the region where the medial practioners live.
We have to increase the strength of the evaluations of the re-settled doctors and our control over them," warned Peña during a meeting with regional medical directors, according to a source who sought anonymity.
A poor evaluation of a doctor who seeks to emigrate means that he or she has to spend more work time before leaving." (5)

The current situation is one of total dependence of doctors on the "goodwill" of the Cuban government. The despair this creates is clear. Marriages brake up and people take to leaving Cuba in an illegal manner as this doctor did on the "taxi boat".(6)

Refusing to go abroad as a doctor can also lead to sanctions under Cuban law:


Cuba - section 220 of the Labour Code: a sentence of imprisonment of from six months to two years may be imposed on a person who, by breach of the duties placed on him by his office, employment, occupation or profession in a state economic unit (particularly of his duties relating to the observance of the standards or standard-setting instructions and other rules and instructions concerning technological discipline) causes harm or substantial prejudice to the production output or to the rendering of services by the
unit or to its equipment, machines, machinery, tools or other technical devices. The Committee has noted the information provided by the Government in its report (including the documents annexed to the report), to the effect that any sentences of correctional labour imposed for violations of this provision are subject to the person sentenced being willing to perform such labour.

In the recent rumored reforms again Cuban doctors are excluded from the reforms. they will still need exit visas.

Source: El pais: Cuba rebaja las restricciones para viajar, April 18,2008.



(1) "Castro's "Doctor Diplomacy", Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2000;5(5):163-166. Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

A distinction is usually made between the short-term temporary flows which
occur when countries such as China and Cuba send health personnel abroad to
earn foreign exchange


(2) Venezuela:

"Cuba denies medics-for-oil trade", Sapa-AFP, 10/10/2000.


"Cuba, Venezuela Sign Oil Deal", The Associated Press, October 30, 2000.

"Venezuela and Cuba trade oil for doctors", Andy Webb-Vidal and Marc Frank, Financial Times, October 11 2004. (In Spanish)

 "Cuba and Venezuela Deepen Ties with Medical-Oil Swap", Wires, July 13, 2005.

" Venezuela medics march over jobs", BBC NEWS,  2005/07/15.

"Using oil to spread revolution", The Economist Newspaper, Jul 28th 2005.

"HOW VENEZUELA SUBSIDIZES THE CASTRO REGIME", Cuba Transition Project, Issue 10, April 2005. Facts Issue 10 April 2005.htm

"Cuba's medical services becoming major moneymaker", South Florida Sun Sentinel, Dec.18 2005.

"Medical know-how boosts Cuba's wealth ", BBC, Jan. 17 2006.



"The income to Castro's purse from this "doctor diplomacy" in Zimbabwe alone is estimated at $1.2 million (U.S.) per month."

Gaither C. Diserción en Zimbabwe empaña la "diplomacia médica" de Castro. El Nuevo Herald, June, 12, 2000.



"According to a Cuban economist, overall earnings from the export of medical, teaching and other professional services could reach $750m (€586m, £404m) this year, most of it from Venezuela."

"Castro's doctors give Chávez shot in arm", Financial Times, 2/9/05.



The ministry's Director of International Corporation Joseph Chite told the Public Accounts Committee recently that the agreement to have students from Malawi trained in various fields in Cuba has turned out to be expensive for Malawi and the students suffer in Cuba because they are not well
looked after.

He said the Cuba demands that the Malawi pays fees for its students, many of whom were sent to study medicine, information technology and athletics but the Cuban government demands that the expatriates Cuba sends to Malawi be fully paid by the Malawi government.

Chite was answering a question from PAC members who wanted to know how the bilateral agreement with the government of Cuba was working.

"Malawi is not utilizing the agreement because the situation on the ground is different. We are even thinking of withdrawing the remaining student in Cuba because the conditions he is living is are very pathetic ," Chite said.


(3) "Castro's "Doctor Diplomacy", Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2000;5(5):163-166. Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.



(4) "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  - 2001", Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 4, 2002


(5) "Health minister asks tighter restrictions on doctors who want to emigrate", Omar Ruiz, Grupo Decoro, Cubanet, December 9, 2002.

"Ministro de Salud pide más rigor para médicos que quieren emigrar", Omar Ruiz, Grupo Decoro, Cubanet, 6 de diciembre, 2002.


(6) "Floating taxi family hails ride out of Cuba", New York Daily, June 21, 2005.


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3. 2008 Petition.


Petition seeks freedom of movement for Cubans to travel, invest
Posted : Wed, 16 Apr 2008 04:34:03 GMT
Author : DPA
Category : Travel (General)

Havana - A former government official petitioned the Cuban national assembly Tuesday to allow citizens to travel freely off the island, he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. Pedro Aníbal Riera Escalante, a former state intelligence officer and consul in Mexico, said he petitioned the Cuban parliament to reform migratory laws to eliminate the requirement for permission to leave and enter the country.

Eliminating the so-called "white card" permissions is one measure that some expect of Raul Castro's government. Officials acknowledged that such a move was "under consideration," but no government reform legislation has been proposed.

Riera Escalante's proposal aims to "apply the article of the constitution that establishes that all citizens are equal under law," he said.

It would stop the practice of confiscating property of Cubans who have left the island, and permit those living abroad to invest in the country and have voting rights.

Riera Escalante said he also asked for the resources necessary to promote a national debate on the initiative.

"The proposal conforms strictly to the law, it is not a subversive activity," said the former consul, who serve a prison sentence in Cuba after being arrested in Mexico and deported in 1999 for having used false documents to seek political asylum.

According to Cuban law, petitions to the legislature must be accepted or rejected within 60 days. Riera Escalante said he would not wait for the answer before starting to collect the 10,000 signatures necessary to move the petition forward and recruit support from different sectors of society.

The former army major in the state intelligence apparatus said he proposed similar reforms without success when he was consul to Mexico in 1991. But he said the current government under the direction of Raul Castro might be more open the idea now.

"There is great interest and disposition on the part of the government toward change, but I am afraid the changes could end up being superficial and not address the core problems," he said.

He said Raul Castro himself opened the door when he urged citizens to speak "with courage" about what works and what doesn't in Cuban society, during a July 26, 2007 speech.



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4. 2008 Reforms?


On April 18, 2008 the Spanish newspaper "El Pais" posted this article on their website:


Cuba rebaja las restricciones para viajar, April 18,2008.


The article states that the requirement of an "carta de invitacion" (invitation letter) under which Cubans had to be "invited" by a foreigner or Cuban abroad (at a cost of 220 € - 330 U$ in Europe) would be cancelled. This means that Cubans would get the right to initiate independent travel: they no longer would depend on the "invitation" of a third person.

The "carta blanca" (the exit and entry visa) that Cubans needed would also be abolished for all but medical doctors, recent university graduates that had no performed their "social service", members of the armed services and employees of the ministry of the interior with access to classified information would still be required to get an exit and re-entry visa.

Children would be allowed to travel with their parents and Cubans could stay up to 2 years abroad without losing their social and citizenship rights (currently 11 months).

This page will be updated as soon as the full details of the exact reforms become available.

As of today (April 18, 2008) no changes were available on the website of the Cuban ministry of exterior relations (Minrex).





As of May 5, 2008 the website of The Cuban Ministry of Exterior Relations, Minrex, still shows basically the same page on travel requirements as in the past referring to:

- Extensions of Travel Abroad Permission (PVE)
- Application for Entrance to Cuba Permission (PE) and Traveling Validity (VV)
- Making and delivering of Invitation Letters


With the refusal of an exit visas - which was supposed to be scrapped - to Yoani Sanchez, the blogger that was awarded a prize in Spain, but wasn't allowed to go to Spain to receive it the Cuban government has again put in doubt the whether exit visas are indeed scrapped for all but the aforementioned categories. It seems that at least one category has to be added: the politically inconvenient.

Sanchez was given the Ortega y Gasset Prize in digital journalism for creating a now year-old blog called "Generation Y," which gets more than 1 million hits a month, mostly from abroad. Cuban essayist Ernesto Hernandez Busto accepted on her behalf.


What is interesting is that Mariela Castro, daughter or Raul Castro and well known campaigner against sexual discrimination in Cuba, condemned the fact that Sanchez wasn't given an exit visa.

"It is not necessary to deprive people of their right to leave. I think we should grant permission to all those who want to leave," Mariela Castro said in reply to a question about the desire for Cubans to be allowed to travel freely, in an interview with La Vanguardia.

"People can leave, but with a great amount of difficulty," admitted the sexologist who defends the rights of gay and lesbian minorities but who says she does not seek a political role in her homeland.


As of June 4 2008 there still is no decision on what the new procedure will be.
Various press reports indicate that it would be the CDR that would decide on allowing a person to leave.
That in effect would make the whole "reform" a charade as it would merely transfer the power to stop Cuban leaving from one government agency to another.


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