Cubans in the Air: 35% More but No Massive Exit

October 28, 2013 | Print Print |
illustration by Yasser Castellanos

illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — Cubans trips abroad increased by 35 percent after the entry into force of immigration reform in January 2013, but no massive outflow of citizens has occurred, said the government of Raul Castro on Monday, reported dpa news.

“Cubans are not fleeing, they are traveling,” said Colonel Lambert Fraga, the deputy chief of the Cuban Immigration office, in presenting a report on migration flows following the reform. Thus far, 226,877 Cubans traveled abroad this year, according to statistics.

“As predicted, the obtaining of visas from other countries is the main limitation that limits Cubans from traveling,” added Fraga.

In January the government launched a historic immigration reform that eliminated travel restrictions and an exit visa requirement that for decades weighed on citizens of the island. Cubans no longer need an exit permit known as the “white card”, or an invitation from overseas to leave the island.

The immigration official said 57.8 percent of Cubans traveled abroad this year have returned to the island. He added there have been few restrictions for highly skilled professionals to travel.

In announcing the reforms, the Cuban government left open the possibility of restricting the travel for people considered “vital” for the country. The stated goal is to prevent “brain drain” to the United States.

It was feared such restrictions would mostly fall on the large number of doctors on the island as well as elite athletes. However, according to Fraga, only a small number, he put at 8,000 need permission to travel at this time.”

Neither political opponents such as blogger Yoani Sánchez nor activists of the Ladies in White have had trouble traveling. In the new immigration law, the Cuban government reserved the right to deny passports to persons on grounds of “national security” or “public interest”.

The main destination of Cubans is still the United States (27.4%), where the vast majority of the two million Cuban exiles live. This was followed by Mexico with 13.3 % of the trips and Spain (9.3%).

Fraga noted that during the same period the number increased of Cubans sent back to the island. Repatriation (1,104 people) were recorded mostly from Mexico, Ecuador and Panama. Ecuador does not request a tourist visa for Cubans but after the island’s immigration reform took effect it began requiring a letter of invitation for visitors from Cuba.


What's your opinion?

  • lula

    I have a query I need clarifying if anyone can advise: Can a Cuban travel to another country uninvited if they have money in their bank account. How much would be required to travel somewhere like Colombia or Mexico? Thanks in advance

    • http://www.havanatimes.org/ Circles Robinson

      They must have a visa to travel to Colombia or Mexico.

    • Moses Patterson

      Both Colombian and Mexican visa requirements include a letter of invitation from a legal resident of that country for would-be Cuban visitors.

  • Bob Michaels

    “The immigration official said 57.8 percent of Cubans traveled abroad this year have returned to the island. ”

    WOW! That really says something.

    • ac

      Actually, I’m quite surprised for the unusually high number, since roughly 30% of the travelers left less than three months ago and long visits are generally more cost-effective for them (mules excepted, of course).

  • Moses Patterson

    More than 150,000 Cubans (legal and illegal immigration) have permanently left the island in the last year and the Castros say this is a good thing? Keep in mind that the majority of people leaving are young and in their working and productive years. Most of these emigres are well-educated and had better opportunities existed for them in Cuba, would have preferred to remain on the island. Losing this segment of the population only hurts Cuba.

    • John Goodrich

      Without mentioning the over 50 year-old war your employers are waging on the island , your figures and your posts are nothing more than U.S. propaganda .
      Of course loss of an educated and vital segemnet of the population hurts the country.
      IT IS THE INTENT OF THE WAR TO DO SO.

      • Moses Patterson

        As much as you would like to blame the US embargo for all that ails Cuba, that is simply not the case. While there are a few problems in Cuban life where even an indirect relation to the embargo could be implied, the list of problems Cubans face on a daily basis which have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the embargo is too long to present in this space. This ‘internal embargo’ most recently highlighted by the Cuban musician Roberto Carcasses, is the bigger cause of the painful immigration of Cuba’s best and brightest.

        • John Goodrich

          At the outset, the stated purpose of the embargo was to make life for the average Cuban, all the Cuban people, so difficult that they would overthrow their own revolution and revert to capitalism .
          The fact that the embargo stays in effect is testimonial to its effectiveness in creating misery which of course is fodder for
          heartless people like you. .
          The only problem with the intended aim of the embargo is that the Cubans, living as poorly as they are, still prefer the life they have to the one that is imposed on all other poor countries in the world under capitalism by the U.S.
          1959 is not THAT long ago that the bad memoriesof those times are now gone.

          • Moses Patterson

            Really? How do you know what the Cuban people feel and think? Since 1959, they have not had a chance to choose for themselves what they really want. Their only choice has been Castro or …..Castro. Reread here at HT in an earlier post what Roberto Carcasses said. That’s what Cubans want.

    • Victor Lar

      Many of them will come back with good money after successful Medicare fraud

  • Griffin

    A correction is needed: while some dissidents who were allowed to travel did so, (and in the case of Joani Sanchez, were met by mobs of pro-Catro hecklers), there were indeed many other dissidents who applied for permission to travel but were denied that right by the Cuban government.

    Contrary to the headline, the statistics do show that there has been a significant increase in both legal and illegal emigration from Cuba. Regime apologists can blame the embargo all they want, to no good effect, but unless and until the Cuban government make the necessary political & economic changes that will convince young Cubans they have a hopeful future in Cuba, the outflow will continue grow.

    Cuba faces a mortal demographic decline: either the regime fixes the problem, or the problem will fix the regime.