Saturday, October 29, 2005

Cubans take refuge in city

October 26, 2005
Cubans take refuge in city
By Sarah Green

TORONTO -- More than 20 singers with Cuba's famed national choir were
holed up in safe houses in Ottawa and Toronto yesterday after a
well-planned defection in the middle of a Canadian tour.

"Some of them tried to cross the border (to the U.S.) because they have
family there," said Ismael Sambra, president of the Cuban Canadian

Sambra said the singers, about half the 40-member choir, are staying
with Cuban and Canadian friends after defecting Sunday and Monday and
they plan to apply for refugee status this week.


"Most of them want to improve their lives and to stay here, to learn
English," Sambra said.

The choir arrived in Canada last week and is slated to perform Saturday
in B.C.

The defection echoes a similar escape made by a dozen young Cubans while
visiting Toronto in 2002 for World Youth Day. The Catholic pilgrims took
advantage of the crowd of 800,000 worshippers at Downsview Park during a
mass with the late Pope John Paul to slip away from Cuban security

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