Thu, 08 Jun 2023

Reuters: Legal options for Cubans traveling to US closing

Robert Besser
22 Jun 2022, 08:20 GMT+10

HAVANA, Cuba: In interviews while waiting in lines outside the Colombian, Mexican and Panamanian embassies in Havana, Cubans have expressed frustration at the local and international diplomatic and bureaucratic issues affecting those wishing to escape the island's growing economic crisis.

Many Cubans are seeking to travel to countries in South America often used as jumping-off points for migrating to the U.S.

Miguel and Ania Palenzuela have been waiting for one month outside Colombia's embassy in Havana, hoping to secure visas to travel through the South American nation.

"There are too many barriers. It is as if they do not want us Cubans to travel," Miguel Palenzuela said, as quoted by Reuters.

Responding to Reuters, the Colombian embassy said its systems had been swamped by the "large number" of applicants, and Colombia's upcoming presidential elections had also slowed visa services.

U.S. figures showed that more than 140,000 Cubans have been encountered by authorities at the U.S. border with Mexico since October.

The U.S. is blamed by Cuba for encouraging illegal migration through its ongoing Cold War-era economic embargo, and for closing its consular services in Havana.

During the Summit of the Americas held last week, which excluded Cuban government representatives, the U.S. agreed to facilitate "legal pathways" for migrants.

Washington resumed visa processing in Havana in May and aims to issue 20,000 immigrant visas to Cubans annually.

After it lifted visa requirements in November, many Cubans chose to fly to Nicaragua before risking an overland journey north to the U.S. border.

However, rising travel costs have led many to seek flights via other countries, such as Panama, Colombia and Costa Rica.

Meanwhile, Cuban Odanis Gonzalez said the U.S. decision to restart consular services in Cuba was the best way forward.

"We should all have the right to this path, the correct one, and not have to risk our lives," she said, as quoted by Reuters.

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