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US urges free emigration, but its own quota system bars many Romanians

Petru Nastasie, a resident of Bucharest, and his wife are reportedly on a hunger strike because they wish to emigrate from Romania and cannot. But the obstacle, for once, is not the Romanian Communist government. The Nastasies have been given passports for themselves and their two children. The family would like to go to the United States.

They are, however, among the victims of an incongruity in the United States' position on Romanian emigration. Even as the US presses the Romanian government to allow free emigration in accordance with the 1975 Helsinki agreement on human rights, its immigration regulations preclude a carte blanche admission of all would-be candidates.

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Until just a year ago there was a ''third country processing'' program to facilitate ''refugee'' transit through Rome. But last year the program was suspended and replaced by a quota system.

Preferences may be given when the applicant can prove political persecution or seeks to be reunited with a spouse or other family members already established in the US. But anyone - a whole family, for example - merely declaring a desire to move to the US must get into a long queue.

Currently, 1,200 Romanians have received passports but in effect ''have nowhere to go'' because they are not within these categories.

The Nastasie family is among them. According to emigre sources here, the father was jailed for political opposition in the early 1950s and again in 1962. But that was too long ago for him to qualify him as an ''asylum'' case two decades later.

According to the private US-based Helsinki Watch Committee, an additional 8, 000 to 9,000 Romanians are believed to have applied for inclusion in the next US quotas, but they have not yet been able to get Romanian passports.

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