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Front Pages 30 Dec, 2021 Follow News


Cuba is experiencing a new wave of citizens so desperate to leave that they are endangering their lives to cross the Florida Straits in inadequate vessels to get to the United States.

Others are taking to the Caribbean Sea heading south to the Cayman Islands or west to Central America to seek refugee status or as in-transit stop-overs with an ultimate goal of getting to the US.

Meanwhile, there are reports that some are even taking flying to countries thousands of miles away with the intention of seeking another route into America.

These journeys are fraught with danger and uncertainty.

In the past week alone a boatful of Cuban migrants packed into a dinghy was intercepted by the United States Coast Guard near the Florida Keys and they were deported back to the Communist-run nation.

The 18 migrants were sent back Tuesday following their arrest four days earlier about 15 miles off Duck Key. The Coast Guard's Sector Key West was alerted after a container ship crew spotted the group crammed aboard the 15-foot hardly sea-worthy vessel.

The fleeing Cubans were medically assessed, fed and processed for their expulsion to the economically-ravaged island.

The US deported 838 Cubans who were stopped at sea in the year up to September 30 - the highest total since nearly 1,500 were sent back in 2017.

The US Department of Homeland Security data shows Coast Guard crews have already stopped 462 Cuban migrants in the current fiscal year.

The spike in Cubans fleeing the island over the last two years has been primarily driven by the scarcity of basic goods, restrictions on civil liberties and the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic as residents have taken to the streets in the first mass demonstration since before former leader Fidel Castro came into power.

Cubans fleeing the socialist regime had been allowed to remain in the US under President Bill Clinton’s ‘wet foot, dry foot’ 1995 policy which revised the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.

The law granted them eligibility to become residents within a year.

President Obama stopped that immigration policy in January 2017, signing an executive decision as he left office.

Cubans caught in the sea by US authorities are now returned to Cuba or the country from where they originally departed under United States policy.

Russia is one of a handful of countries that does not require Cubans to obtain a visa to travel there, so some Cubans use that distant route as a way to cross into other countries in Europe, with the ultimate goal of eventually reaching the US.

But in recent weeks, Russia has begun to crack down on Cubans using the visa exemption to travel to third countries. A month ago, a group of 71 Cubans were denied entry to Russia and sent back home. Cubans fleeing their homeland have also landed in Greece, Turkey and Italy.

Cuba’s economic woes have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the country now producing its own vaccines and taking a lead in vaccinations in Latin America.

Its fleeing nationals also claim growing political repression in the wake of recent anti-government demonstrations.

The US Biden administration has condemned what it called the “politically motivated trials” of hundreds of Cubans who were involved in unprecedented anti-government protests in July.

Cuban authorities are seeking prison sentences of up to 25 years for some of the protesters

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