Tuesday, 22 March 2022 09:34

Cubans arriving in record numbers in US as gates begin to open

HAVANA, Cuba: A surge in migration from Cuba has meant that Bray Perez, a 19-year-old university student, is rapidly losing friends.

"Every time I go home, I find that 10 people have left. It is hard to get up in the morning and know I am not going to see them anymore," he said, as quoted by Reuters.

In November, Nicaragua lifted visa requirements for Cubans, so many sold their homes and flew to Managua in the hope of joining the mainland "migrant highway" to the U.S.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in February, 16,531 Cubans were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, the highest single-month total on record.

While most Mexican and Central American migrants are turned back, almost all Cubans who arrived in the past year were allowed into the U.S. to pursue their immigration cases.

However, flying to Nicaragua is now getting more complicated, as the number of Cubans leaving the island has increased, with ticket prices between Havana and Managua quadrupling to over $3,000 per seat, several times the average annual Cuban salary.

Therefore, many Cubans are traveling on multi-stop routes, though countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama now require additional visas to pass through their airports.

The Biden administration said the U.S. is working with Mexico and Central American countries to curb those attempting to cross the border, including Cubans.

Jorge Duany, migration expert with Florida International University, said such hurdles complicate travel for Cubans, already struggling with problems at home, including food and medicine shortages, a floundering economy and rising social tensions.

"We are witnessing a very precarious situation for thousands of Cuban families who have no other way out of this crisis," Duany said in an interview, according to Reuters.

Darinel Perez, a 31-year-old Cuban doctor who spoke with Reuters in Tapachula, Mexico, said that those who manage to make it off the island must then undertake a journey that can become more problematic.

"I had to sell my house, everything I had. Leaving Cuba was very hard," Perez said, as quoted by Reuters.

Despite the risks, including assault, disease and robbery, Perez said buses through Guatemala and Honduras were full of other Cubans like him, stressing, "There is no going back."