faults Cuba for visa shortfall
Yahoo! News. By Anita Snow.
HAVANA, 2 oct (AP) - The United States
issued only about 15,000 of the 20,000 emigrant
visas it had agreed to issue to Cubans during
the last fiscal year, American authorities
said Monday, and they blamed Cuban officials
for the shortfall.
Cuban authorities have not allowed the
American mission to fill 11 job openings,
all typically held by Cuban citizens, on
the section's 45-member binational staff,
said Sean Murphy, consul general at the
U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
Havana limits the number of Americans it
allows to work at the mission, so a majority
of jobs are performed by Cuban citizens
who legally must be hired through a Cuban
government employment agency with the approval
of their government.
"It has been impossible this year
to maintain the rhythm of work" of
past years because of insufficient personnel,
Murphy said, adding it is the first time
since the two countries signed migration
accords in 1995 that the United States has
failed to meet the 20,000-visa quota outlined
in that agreement.
Havana filed a formal protest in August
after the U.S. State Department acknowledged
it would not meet the quota. It accused
Washington of violating accords aimed at
ensuring safe and orderly migration, while
U.S. officials blamed Cuban restrictions
for the problem.
Cuban authorities in the past have maintained
that the U.S. government has the staffing
needed to meet the quota and suggested that
any unfilled positions were not for people
involved with visa processing.
Under migration accords, the United States
agreed to grant at least 20,000 visas annually
to Cubans wanting to live in the United
States in an effort to prevent a repeat
of the 1994 migration crisis that saw more
than 30,000 islanders take to the sea on
makeshift rafts bound for South Florida.
During a briefing with international reporters,
Murphy also said that the United States
this year suspended its processing of Cuban
applicants for U.S. immigrant visas chosen
during several visa lotteries the American
mission held in the late 1990s.
Known as the "bombo," the lottery
was aimed at giving those Cubans without
relatives in the United States a chance
to emigrate. Cubans with family in America
can be sponsored by relatives, making it
easier to obtain U.S. emigrant visas.
As for illegal immigration, Murphy said
2,868 Cubans were intercepted at sea in
the Florida Straits during the fiscal year
that just ended, up slightly from the 2,810
intercepted at sea in the previous 12 months.
He said most of those picked up were returned
to their homeland under the so-called wet-foot/dry-foot
policy that calls for most Cubans intercepted
at sea to be repatriated while those who
reach American shores may stay and seek
But far more who undertook the risky journey
escaped intervention at sea.
Murphy said 7,693 Cubans set off across
the Florida Straits during the past fiscal
year, up somewhat from the 7,088 who tried
the journey during the previous 12 months.
While allowing that "the increase
is not great," Murphy said the larger
number of attempts could be related to milder
weather at sea, as well as "a lack
of hope" among Cubans. He said that
about 70 percent of those making the sea
journey are transported in fast boats by
migrant smugglers, with the other 30 percent
making the trip on their own in more rustic
In a new trend, far more Cubans - about
10,000 a year - are now emigrating to the
United States by passing through Mexico
and traveling north to the U.S. border,