The United States will admit up to 3,500 of the Cubans who have taken refuge at the Peruvian Embassy in Havana and are seeking political asylum in other countries, President Carter announced yesterday.
In a statement issued by press secretary Jody Powell, the president also called on other nations "to make their own contributions without delay" to the effort to relocate the fleeing Cubans.
"This humanitatian crisis requires an immediate international response," he said.
The U.S. commitment to take up to 3,500 refugees affects about one-third of the estimated 10,000 Cubans who took refuge at the Peruvian Embassy last week after the Cuban government removed security guards from the compound. The Cuban government has told all of those who made their way into the embassy that they could leave Cuba as soon as Peru found a place for them to go.
Costa Rica has agreed to serve as a temporary staging area for the Cubans after they leave Havana and to accept 300 of them as permanent residents. Peru has agreed to accept 1,000 of the Cubans and Spain has said it will take 500.
Powell also said that the administration is "encouraged" by suggestions that other European and Latin American countries will provide refuge for the Cubans.
Carter acted to admit the Cubans under the Refugee Act of 1980 and, according to Powell, the first priority for admission to the United States will go to former political prisoners and refugees with relatives in this country.
Because south Florida contains the largest concentration of Cuban refugees in the United States, most of the new refugees probably will settle in that area, White House officials said.
According to Powell, the United States has admitted 800,000 Cubans since 1959, the year Fidel Castro cameto power in Cuba, including 15,000 in the last 18 months.
About 3,900 of the 15,000 Cubans were released political prisoners who were granted asylum in the United States under a special program.
Officials estimated that the first of the Cuban refugees could begin arriving in the United States a little more than a week after reaching Costa Rica for the initial screening process. They said the major problem now is getting Cuban authorities to cooperate with Peru and various international agencies that are trying to arrange for the Cubans to leave Havana.
Last week, the five members of the Andean Pact -- Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Eucador and Bolivia -- urged a full-scale international effort to evacuate the Cubans from Havana. However, thus far only Peru of the five nations has committed itself to accepting some of the refugees.
Powell noted that the Cubans are only a part of a larger worldwide refugee problem and, in an appeal to other nations, said, "The United States cannot meet all of these humanitarian problems around the world alone."