US, Cuba talk on migration amid migrant crisis in Central America

November 30, 2015
WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. and Cuban diplomats met Monday on implementing their migration agreements and cooperating to discourage migrant trafficking, but reached no new accord, Cuban officials said.

The high-level discussion was about implementing agreements already in effect such as those on visas for Cubans wanting to emigrate, visitors’ visas and both sides working to discourage illegal emigration and people trafficking, a Cuban embassy statement said.

The talks came amid several weeks of a migration crisis as Cuban migrants — trying to travel to the United States where they get U.S. visas for setting foot on U.S. soil — caused a diplomatic and political crisis by thronging the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

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Costa Rica had not given them transit visas and Nicaragua — a Cuban ally — refused to let them pass, outraged with San Jose’s refusal to help them.

Some of the nearly 4,000 Cubans stuck on the border have voiced mounting frustration at the lack of a diplomatic solution for their plight, and a sense of betrayal by Nicaragua.

The migrants’ numbers are swelling daily by new arrivals. They are being put up in schools, churches and community centers in northwestern Costa Rica, close to the border.

Cuba told the United States it was “deeply concerned” by what Havana sees as Washington’s “politically motivated handling of Cuban migration issues,” according to the statement.

Costa Rica argued in the gathering that the Cubans should be granted a “humanitarian corridor” to the United States, which has a Cold War-era policy of accepting Cubans who set foot on its soil.

But Nicaragua, which has frayed ties with neighboring Costa Rica over border disputes, roundly rejected the proposal, saying it would not allow “illegal immigration” over its border.

The number of Cubans trying the journey by air to Ecuador then overland through Central America and Mexico to the U.S. has surged this year. Ecuador last week announced that it would begin requiring tourist visas from Cubans in order to stem the flow using the country as a springboard to the U.S.

There is a widespread fear among Cubans that thawing American-Cuban ties might spell an end to the U.S. open-arms policy. The United States on Monday reiterated that its government does not plan to change migration policies that apply to Cuban nationals.

The 11 million Cubans in their homeland are the only people in the world who benefit from this special treatment.

Cuba asked the United States to hold another round of migration talks in Havana early next year.

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