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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
Cuba, US slated on family rights
By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Havana

Elian and his father are greeted on their arrival in Havana, June 2000
Shipwrecked boy Elian Gonzales' family is one of those split
A report by Human Rights Watch has strongly criticised both Cuban and US governments for policies which cause forced separation of Cuban families.

The US-based group says travel restrictions by the two countries reflect "an utter disregard for the welfare of families".

The report says US policy on travel to Cuba carries a terrible human cost.

Cuba is criticised for "routinely refusing to grant its citizens permission to leave their country".

It is also taken to task for not allowing those who do leave illegally to return.

Restrictions 'necessary'

In this report, Human Rights Watch has roughly equal criticism for the governments of Cuba and the US.

It describes the travel restrictions which both countries impose on their respective citizens as inhumane and against internationally recognised principles.

Cuba has not commented on this specific report.

In the past it has justified the restrictions it imposes on its citizens' right to travel as a necessity in the face of US attempts to undermine the government of Fidel Castro.

Human Rights Watch also has plenty of criticism for US policy on travel to Cuba.

Last year, the Bush administration imposed tougher rules regarding licensed US travel to Cuba.

Most notably, it limited family visits to once every three years as opposed to the previous policy of once every year.

Amongst the report's detailed examples there are some of Cubans living in the US who have been prevented from seeing their dying parents.

Human Rights Watch is calling on the US government to abandon its travel ban on Cuba and in the meantime establish humanitarian exceptions.

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