Colombia's Foreign Ministry granted a safe-conduct for five days to six Cuban citizens, who have been in the transit lounge of Bogota's El Dorado International Airport since Jan. 1, so they can apply for official acceptance of their refugee status.

That was reported by the Foreign Ministry in a communique saying that the safe-conduct comes in answer to a request by the United Nations Refugee Agency, or UNHCR, which on Friday mediated on behalf of the Cubans before the Colombian authorities.

The six Cubans were part of a group of 11 who in the last few days of 2013 left Cuba headed for Ecuador, where they were not allowed in because of "adulterations" to the regulation letters of invitation to enter the country, according to the Ecuadorian government.

Though five members of the group decided to return to the Caribbean island, another six said they could not return because of political problems.

For that reason they asked for international help and asylum in Colombia, where they made a stopover on an Avianca airlines flight that was returning them from Quito to Havana after they were barred from entering Ecuador.

The five working days of safe-conduct "begin Monday, Jan. 13" and the applicants "must formalize and expand their applications at the Foreign Ministry so it can proceed to review each case," the Colombian ministry said.

"The beginning of this process does not imply that their refugee status has been accepted, because the complete procedure must be followed that is outlined in Decree 2840 of 2013, which establishes Colombia's international commitments with regard to refugees, and with particular reference to the contents of the 1951 Convention," the Colombian Foreign Ministry said. EFE