Spotlight on illegal migration of Cubans

Spotlight on illegal migration of Cubans

HAVANA, March 14 – Cuba accused Washington of stoking illegal migration by not processing visas in Havana and making it relatively easy for Cubans to claim asylum,

in the wake of a spate of ill-fated clandestine attempts to reach United States shores by boat.

The fate of a group of Cubans risking their lives to reach the United States illegally by boat has gripped people on both sides of the Florida Straits after a vessel capsized near the Bahamas a week ago, leaving some people floating in the water for more than 14 hours.

While a Royal Bahamas Defence Force ship has rescued 12 people and recovered one body, several others have not yet been found, including women and two children, the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement late on Thursday.

Thousands of Cubans used to attempt to emigrate to the United States by boat per year until former United States President Barack Obama in 2017 ended a measure granting automatic residence to Cubans who reached US soil, though he left in place some other exceptions to usual migration rules.

Since then, the numbers have dropped but still hover around several hundred per year.

The US Coast Guard has intercepted 87 people of Cuban origin in the Caribbean in the first six months of the 2021 fiscal year which began on October 1, a spokesman told Reuters. That is an increase on the 49 registered in the full 2020 fiscal year, although this was impacted by the pandemic, and compares with 314 in 2019, the spokesman said.

A US State Department official said in response to the statement that it had designated the US embassy in Guyana as the primary site to process immigrant visas for residents of Cuba. The United States was committed to supporting “safe, orderly, and humane migration from Cuba,” the official said. (Reuters)