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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Havana slams U.S. on its migration policy for Cuban migrants

Havana slams U.S. on its migration policy for Cuban migrants
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

In the face of a surge in Cuban migrants arriving in the United States,
Cuba is accusing Washington of politicizing migration policy between the
two countries and encouraging "illegal and unsafe" migration from the
island.

Cuba has long objected to the Cuban Adjustment Act, the wet foot/dry
foot policy and a parole program that makes it easy for Cuban doctors to
come to the United States. But this year — as 46,635 Cubans have arrived
at U.S. ports of entry — its objections have become more pointed.

In the latest statement, released Sunday by the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, the Cuban government said U.S. policy toward Cuban migrants
violates "the letter and spirit" of U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords that
were signed in 1994-95. Under those accords, the United States has
agreed to accept at least 20,000 Cubans annually, not including the
immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

On Saturday afternoon, 14 Cubans who were deported from Colombia arrived
in Havana aboard a Colombian air force plane. Those in the group left
Cuba legally, said the Minrex statement, and went to various countries
in Latin America and the Caribbean.

But in their quest to arrive in the United States, they became "victims
of human traffickers and delinquent bands operating in the region," the
statement said. "These citizens are victims of the politicization of the
migration theme on the part of the United States government, which
stimulates illegal and unsafe migration."

The Cubans sent back to the island were part of a group of some 1,800
migrants who had been stranded in the Colombian town of Turbo, near the
border with Panama, trying to figure out a way to continue their journey
north to the United States.

But in recent days more than 1,350 undocumented migrants have been
deported from Colombia or left on their own in the face of pending
deportation. Colombia's Foreign Ministry said Monday that there were
only about 350 migrants left in Turbo.

Most of the migrants who had congregated in the Colombian port city were
Cuban and Haitian, but there also were Africans and Asians in the group,
according to a survey in late July by the Colombian Human Rights
Ombudsman's Office. In May, Panama closed its border to the migrants.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body of the
Organization of American States, expressed deep concern about the
vulnerability of the stranded group, which includes pregnant women as
well as children and newborns.

The Commission said Monday that it has received information that some
migrants, frustrated at the lack of legal or safe migration channels,
have turned to clandestine routes, including through the jungle region
of the Darien Gap, making them vulnerable to abuse and extortion by
criminal organizations, smugglers and sometimes police.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela told reporters in Panama City
last week that there are around 800 migrants in the swampy Darien Gap
where guerrilla groups and smugglers are active.. On Tuesday, he said
Panama would not permit anyone to die in the jungle and will be giving
migrants already in the country en route to the United States
humanitarian assistance.

"The fact that migrants are turning to irregular channels and to
traffickers is explained by the absence and shortage of legal and safe
migratory channels. We call on the American states to take immediate
action to open up channels that allow these people to migrate legally
and safely," said IACHR President James Cavallaro.

Before Colombia continues deportations and voluntary exits, the
commission said it should identify migrants with special need for
protection such as asylum seekers, refugees and those victimized by
human traffickers and decide cases individually.

Among tools that countries in the Americas can use to alleviate the
migrant crisis are humanitarian admission programs, family reunification
visas, student scholarships, labor mobility programs, private
sponsorships and refugee resettlement programs, the commission said.

Not only do U.S. migration policies stimulate illegal and unsafe
migration, the Cuban government said, but the United States admits
Cubans even if they enter U.S. territory by illegal means, "contrasting
with the treatment received by other Latin American emigrants who are
rejected."

However, South Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said, "We
should be clear: the Castro regime is the only government responsible
for the Cuban people's desperate search for freedom."

She has joined by fellow South Florida Republicans Carlos Curbelo and
Mario Diaz-Balart in sending a letter to the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees asking that the Cubans stranded in Turbo be
given access to legal counsel and have their needs — including adequate
food, water and medical attention — met.

"We have been informed that the group has endured kidnappings by
Colombian guerrillas, persecution and indiscriminate deportation by the
Colombian authorities without allowing them the opportunity to request
asylum," they said in the letter.

The United States maintains it has no plans to change its Cuban
migration policies and is committed to safe, orderly and legal
migration. The United States and Cuba met in Washington for their
biannual migration talks on July 14, but the State Department only
released a brief statement that said little beyond the assertion that
both the U.S. and Cuban delegations reiterated the importance of the
migration accords.

"The United States and Cuba will encounter areas of practical
cooperation, as well as areas of difference," a State Department
spokesman said Tuesday night. "Where we have differences, however, our
increased engagement will allow us to articulate those differences
clearly, directly, and when appropriate, publicly."

A Pew Research Center analysis of government data shows that during the
first 10 months of this year, 46,635 Cubans have entered the United
States through ports of entry — already surpassing the total of 43,159
for all of last fiscal year. Arrivals for fiscal 2015 were up 78 percent
over 2014 when 24,278 Cubans entered the United States.

"The surge in the number of Cubans entering the country began in the
months immediately following the president's" Dec. 2014 announcement
that the United States and Cuba were working toward normalizing
relations, Pew said. Many migrants are fearful that with rapprochement,
preferential migration policies for Cubans will eventually end.

There also has been a surge in the number of Cubans trying to reach U.S.
shores by sea. Under the U.S. wet foot/dry foot policy, Cubans who make
it to shore are permitted to enter the United States but those who are
interdicted at sea are generally sent back to Cuba.

In fiscal 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard picked up 2,927 Cubans at sea. As
of Monday, the number of interdictions this fiscal year stood at 4,179.
Migrant flow numbers, which include landings, interdictions and those
dissuaded from continuing their voyages, so far this year have reached
5,856, compared to 4,473 for the entire fiscal year 2015.

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Source: As number of Cuban migrants arriving in the U.S. this year
surges, Cuba slams United States on its migration policy for Cubans. |
In Cuba Today - http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article94580147.html
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