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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Cuba and America take possible steps with talks on migration

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – Cuba and the United States have taken a tentative step toward resuming joint efforts to address irregular migration, a senior Cuban official said on Friday. Said after the highest level talks between the countries in four years.

Deputy Secretary of State Carlos Fernández de Cosio said there were no major breakthroughs, but the mere fact that the US was holding important talks could make relations look better after going into a deep freeze under President Joe Biden under his predecessor.

“They seem committed. They confirmed that they are committed to the agreement,” Fernandez de Cosio said. “So we have no reason to disbelieve what they are saying, but time will tell.”

Negotiations did not focus on broader US-Cuban relations, but more narrowly on restoring adherence to previous agreements, which aimed to reduce the often dangerous irregular migration from the island to the United States.

“These talks helped both of us understand the nature and magnitude of the problem,” the deputy foreign minister said in an interview with the Associated Press at the Cuban ambassador’s residence outside Washington.

US officials want Cuba to resume flights of deported migrants, which it stopped doing at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Cuban officials want the US to execute on its plan to restore consular services in Havana, so that people can once again get visas to come to the United States legally, as well as other policies. those who believe that it encourages irregular migration. island.

“They asked us to renew the flights because it was an important element of the deterrent,” he said. “We said we agreed that this is an important element of detention. We explained that we needed to do it in an integral way, and they understood that.”

This was a more detailed explanation than the talks the US had provided a day earlier. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the meeting “underscores our commitment to having constructive discussions with the government of Cuba where appropriate to advance US interests.”

The talks take place against a backdrop of relations that deteriorated sharply under President Donald Trump and a sharp increase in the number of Cubans seeking to enter the US along the southwest border.

US Customs and Border Protection intercepted Cuba more than 79,800 times from October to March – more than double the whole of 2021 and five times more than all of 2020. In all, the Border Patrol intercepted migrants of all nationalities more than 209,000 times in March, the highest monthly mark in 22 years.

Cubans crossing the US border illegally are at little risk of being deported or expelled under a public health law that has been used to deny asylum to thousands of immigrants of other nationalities on the grounds of slowing the spread of COVID-19. have to has to.

Asked why so many Cubans are fleeing his country, Fernández de Cosio attributed the difficult economic conditions in his country and the widespread knowledge among Cubans that they would be granted asylum and legal residency in the US.

“Life is difficult for Cuba. It is a developing country like any other country in the region,” he said. “They leave for economic reasons like most migrants around the world.”

Cubans are often granted asylum in what is known as a “credible fear” of persecution under US law, usually for political or religious reasons. Not surprisingly, the deputy foreign minister is skeptical of such claims.

“When they reach the border, they claim they have a credible fear if they are turned back,” he said. “But then they are accepted, and once they get residency the first thing they do is get a passport and go back to Cuba.”

Cuba wants the US to stop routine asylum, end economic sanctions and take other measures it says encourage migration and restore consular activities so that people can legally travel back and forth from the island with visitor visas be able to travel

Operations at the US embassy in Havana were severely curtailed in 2017 after unexplained health problems emerged among some employees.

What became known as the “Havana Syndrome” became a major issue during the Trump administration, which backfired on the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba initiated by former President Barack Obama.

Fernandez de Cosio said the Trump administration cut visas as part of its “maximum pressure” against Cuba, which is now contributing to irregular migration, and called on the Biden administration to restore visa operations. Commitment welcomed.

“It needs to be done so that people in Cuba know that there is a legal common way to immigrate to the United States, which has been lacking since 2017,” he said.

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