UN demands Cuba explain over allegations of labor slavery in overseas medical missions

special rapporteur United Nations (UN) On contemporary forms of slavery, Obokata Tomoyaonce again calls on the Cuban government to respond to serious allegations of human rights violations against the Cuban people Cuban professionals on international missions.

In a letter dated 2 November 2023, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over allegations of violations of fundamental rights to privacy, freedom of expression and association, and freedom of movement by Cuban professionals while performing temporary work assignments abroad.

The information received contradicts in major aspects the version provided by Cuba in previous correspondence. The letter stated that Cuban personnel sent abroad, including doctors, teachers, artists, etc., faced exploitative working conditions.

In this sense, it is noteworthy that wages are lower than the average income in the host country and not sufficient to maintain a decent life. Additionally, restrictions such as confiscating passports and imposing curfews were reportedly implemented.

The allegations also involve egregious aspects of harassment, sexual violence, threats and physical violence against workers, often at the hands of employers and officials.

The contracts offered will present unfavorable terms, including the need to comply with Cuban law even when working abroad, as well as individual enforcement measures, such as a prohibition on obtaining residency in the destination country.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur also noted that the governments of Spain, Italy and Qatar, as well as MSC malta seafarers ltd. suspected of participating in these illegal acts. However, so far, none of the parties involved has responded to the UN’s concerns.

The complaints prompted a backlash. Dita CharanzovaVice President European Parliament (EP)emphasizing the seriousness and necessity of illegal acts Support the efforts of the United Nations and Prisoner Defenders (PD).

The president of the latter organization, Javier Lalondodeplored the situation and pointed out that the services and performances brought to Europe from Cuba involve professionals in conditions of forced labor and slavery.

The request marked the third time a formal response from Cuba was required. It is worth mentioning that the Cuban government categorically denied these accusations and claimed that it did not force workers to participate in medical cooperation tasks.

The United Nations insists, however, that many of them do so under duress, which is exacerbated by poverty and job shortages in Cuba.

This is the third time that the United Nations communiqué has pointed out that the Cuban regime is suspected of “modern slavery”

On November 2, 2023, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences sent a third letter (reference number: AL CUB 2/2023) to the Cuban government, requesting a response from the Cuban government on alleged human rights violations Against Cuban professionals on international missions.

In the letter, Obokata expressed concern about violations of the fundamental rights of professionals at Cuban missions abroad. The letter cited complaints of labor exploitation, inadequate wages, confiscation of passports, restrictions on movement, harassment, sexual violence and threats. Furthermore, he highlighted the precarious working conditions of doctors, engineers, artists and others.

In addition, the Cuban regime faces accusations of soliciting large amounts of remittances from these overseas professionals, only a fraction of which is sent to them. Withholding passports when leaving Cuba limits their freedom of movement, while failure to comply with international labor standards manifests itself in days of exhaustion without fair compensation.

It was also emphasized that the Cuban Penal Code prohibits an eight-year prison sentence for those who abandon their mission abroad to the detriment of their families, a situation aggravated by long-term separation from their children.

The Cuban government responded in January 2020, denying that there was pressure or retaliation against those unwilling to participate in medical cooperation missions. However, current information indicates that many professionals will face coercion, abject poverty and limited sources of employment in Cuba.

The lack of response from relevant countries worsened the situation

Despite a 60-day response period, it was confirmed on 2 January 2024 that Cuba, Spain, Italy and Qatar had not provided any information in this regard to the United Nations.

According to the PD, the silence maintained by these countries is particularly troubling because if these allegations are not addressed, the situation of so-called labor slavery affecting Cuban professionals working abroad may worsen.

Previously, due to international pressure, Cuba failed to respond in a timely manner, perhaps even before the set deadline, raising doubts about the authenticity and accuracy of the responses provided by the country.

In Spain, on the other hand, there are testimonies of Cubans working under conditions of slavery in fields as diverse as sports, technology and art. Despite this, the Spanish government has yet to take effective measures to control these working conditions, which may be seen as promoting conditions of so-called slavery.

In Italy, Calabrian government ignores warnings from prominent politicians including senators Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agatawho publicly denounced the so-called slavery conditions in the region.

The lack of response in these countries to complaints of alleged labor and human rights abuses is alarming. In this sense, PD urges the governments of Cuba, Spain, Italy and Qatar to take urgent measures to respond to these allegations and to guarantee decent working conditions for professionals involved in international missions.

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