By Caribbean News Now contributor
WASHINGTON, USA -- On Wednesday, US and Cuban officials met in Washington to discuss the implementation of the 1994 and 1995 US-Cuba migration accords. These talks are held semi-annually.
The US delegation was led by deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Alex Lee and the Cuban delegation was led by the foreign ministry’s director general for US Affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro.
Under the accords, both governments pledged to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States.
The agenda for the talks reflected longstanding US priorities on US-Cuba migration issues, as well as certain areas where cooperation is in the US national interest, including aviation security, search and rescue at sea, and visa processing.
The US delegation also highlighted other areas of ongoing cooperation relevant to migration, including the exchange of information on the interdiction of undocumented migrants, and related issues.
The US delegation reiterated its call for the release of Alan Gross, who was arrested by Cuban authorities on December 3, 2009, and later sentenced to 15 years in prison for facilitating uncensored internet contact between a small, religious community on the island and the rest of the world.
The Cuban side offered updated information on the results of the implementation of the new Cuban migration procedures, which have been in force since January 2013.
Both governments agreed, earlier in July, to enforce the technical operational procedures for search and rescue operations that will make it possible for the authorities of the two countries to cooperate in efforts to save the lives of persons that might be in distress.
The Cuban delegation insisted that alien smuggling and illegal migration would not be eradicated, nor there could be a legal, safe and orderly migration between the two countries, as long as the “wet foot/dry foot” policy and the Cuban Adjustment Act remain in force, since these are also the main encouragement to undocumented arrivals in the US territory, from third countries, by Cuban citizens who legally depart from Cuba.
The Cuban delegation particularly emphasized that these practices are incompatible with the measures adopted by Cuba to regularize migration and facilitate travelling procedures for Cuban citizens; and is likewise incompatible with the interest expressed by both governments to enhance the effectiveness of the operations aimed at preventing and combating illegal migration and alien smuggling.
The Cuban delegation also emphasized its deep concern about the serious difficulties caused to consular services offered by the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to Cuban, American and foreign citizens residing in the United States due to the interruption of the banking services as a result of the US embargo and Cuba´s inclusion in the list of “States sponsors of international terrorism”.
The Cuban delegation reiterated its willingness to maintain these discussions in the future, given their importance for both countries.