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Romanian Teen-Age Tennis Player Granted Asylum

December 23, 1987

MIAMI (AP) _ A teen-age Romanian tennis player was granted political asylum Tuesday after defecting upon her arrival for an international tournament, immigration officials said.

″I want to be in America,″ Madalina Liliana Voinea, 17, told reporters during a brief news conference at the Miami office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. She gave no other reason for her defection.

Miss Voinea sought asylum Monday. She was interviewed by INS officials for several hours and by late Tuesday morning her request was granted, said Perry Rivkind, district INS director.

″Her family knew nothing about this,″ he said.

Rivkind said her case was handled quickly because she came with necessary documents as part of a government-sponsored team.

″We called the Department of State and got an advisory opinion and they said she had a well-founded fear of persecution,″ Rivkind said. ″I agreed with the opinion and granted asylum.″

Miss Voinea, who arrived Saturday for the Orange Bowl International Championship for juniors in Miami Beach, was disappointed when she was told it was unlikely she’d be able to play, tournament officials said.

The Romanian Tennis Federation failed to file its applications on time and all the women’s slots were filled, said tournament director Don Petrine.

″She was very upset,″ Petrine said.

There was still room in the tournament, however, for a male player traveling with her. The tournament started Sunday.

On Monday, Miss Voinea took a taxi from her hotel to Miami International Airport, where she asked for asylum, said Metro-Dade police spokesman Rey Valdes.

Her coach, Ayrel Segarceanu, would not comment on why the teen-ager sought asylum.

Miss Voinea speaks little English and the nervous teen-ager met with the press for only a few minutes. She had lived with her parents and two sisters in Bucharest, said George Waldroup, assistant district INS director.

He said she didn’t have any relatives in the United States but would be staying with friends at an undisclosed location outside of southern Florida.

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