The Fiji TimesU.S. embassy in Cuba resumes full immigrant visa processing for first time since 2017


HAVANA (Reuters) – The U.S. embassy in Havana resumed full immigrant visa processing and consular companies for the primary time since 2017 on Wednesday in a bid to stem the record-breaking stream of unlawful migrants from Cuba north to the USA.

The embassy, which looms over Cuba’s waterfront Malecon boulevard, slashed companies in 2017 after a number of of its employees had been stricken with a nonetheless largely unexplained ailment dubbed “Havana Syndrome.” It was first reported amongst U.S. officers in 2016 and signs included nausea and reminiscence lapses.

Cubans had been as an alternative required to journey to Guyana for visa processing, a expensive journey nicely out of attain for many on the island. The U.S. embassy in Havana started restricted visa processing final 12 months and in September introduced the 2023 full reopening, to “guarantee protected, authorized, and orderly migration of Cubans,” it stated.

At dawn on Wednesday, dozens of Cubans, some who had waited years for appointments, assembled at a small park close to the embassy, twiddling with paperwork and chatting with household as they awaited directions from embassy employees.

Barbara Nodas, 20, stated she was ready to select up a visa that may reunite her together with her father in Tampa, Florida, a course of that had taken greater than two years.

“The American dream of many individuals is coming true,” she stated, almost in tears. “It is a long-awaited second.”

However Nodas, who traveled from japanese Cuba to select up her visa, nonetheless ranks among the many fortunate few who will make the voyage north legally.

Washington final 12 months issued 20,000 immigrant visas to Cubans, together with a restricted quantity out of Havana, according to beforehand signed migration accords, and has stated it goals to do the identical in 2023.

Cuba and the USA have additionally resumed once-regular talks on migration in a bid to tamp down the stream.

However a record-breaking 250,000 Cubans have nonetheless left the island up to now 12 months for the USA, most by way of harmful, irregular routes, touring overland from Central America north to the border or throughout the Straits of Florida in precarious do-it-yourself rafts.

Cuba blames the U.S. embargo, an internet of U.S. legal guidelines and rules that complicate enterprise and monetary transactions with the island, for crippling its economic system and fueling unlawful migration.

Widespread shortages of meals, gasoline, medication and electrical energy – made worse by the coronavirus pandemic – have prompted scattered unrest on the island and sought many to hunt alternate options overseas.

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