Cuban migrants to be provided more flights to US

Mexico, Central American countries approve plan to increase flights for Cuban migrants going to US

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Cuban migrants walk after traveling en route from Costa Rica to El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, before continuing their journey to the US, outside General Lucio Blanco International airport in Reynosa, in Tamaulipas state, Mexico, January 17, 2016

Mexico and Central American countries on Wednesday approved a plan to increase the number of flights for thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica on their way to the United States.

Last month, Central American countries agreed on a pilot programme that would give passage to stranded Cubans.

180 Cubans are flown to El Salvador, and then sent to US by buses through Mexico with 20 day transit visas.

"This allows us to pass to the second stage, with two weekly flights following the same route," said Manuel Gonzalez, Costa Rica's foreign minister.

Pregnant women, children and families from among the 7,800 Cubans trapped in Costa Rica will be prioritised on the flights. The flights are expected to begin on February 4.

Cubans are concerned that in the aftermath of re-establishment of diplomatic relations, Washington will cease or change its immigration policies which grant Cubans relatively easy visa-free residence.

However, Nicaragua and Ecuador - both allies of Cuba unlike Costa Rica - block the passage of migrants without visas.

Cuban mass migration to the US first started when communist leader Fidel Castro overthrew the US-backed government of Cuba in 1959 and aligned itself with the Communist USSR.

Cubans who feared negative consequences of the political transition migrated to the US, mainly during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

In support of those fleeing the communist regime, the US gave Cubans financial assistance and automatic residence with the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.

After a half-century estrangement, the United States and Cuba marked a new era in their diplomatic ties by re-opening their embassies in July.

TRTWorld and agencies