Washington: President Barack Obama has said that Cuban migrants will be treated the same way the US treats migrants from other countries, ending a longstanding practice that allowed undocumented Cuban migrants to remain and become permanent residents of the US.
The Cuban government on Thursday said the signing of an accord here ending the US “wet foot/dry foot” immigration policy was “positive” and “an important step ahead” in the bilateral relations, EFE news reported.
“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea,” the outgoing President said.
Adopted in 1995, the policy allowed the Cubans to obtain the permanent residence a year after entering US territory even by illegal means.
It was always considered by Cuba as an encouragement to illegal migration and human trafficking.
A statement from the Cuban government said this arrangement was aimed at “ensuring a regular, safe and ordered migration”, Xinhua news agency reported.
Cuba is committed to take back its citizens defected by the US when they try to enter or stay irregularly in that country, violating its laws.
Both governments agreed to apply their migration laws in a non-selective manner and in accordance with their international obligations.
The two countries also agreed to coordinate with each other to ensure the effective implementation of this agreement, including corresponding operational procedures for law enforcement bodies.
This Cuba-US deal comes a week before Obama leaves office on January 20.
The decision to abandon wet foot/dry foot comes just eight days before Obama is to be succeeded by Republican Donald Trump, who has threatened to reverse the normalisation of ties with Cuba unless Havana makes certain concessions.
Rapprochement with Cuba is seen as one of the major accomplishments of Obama’s second term. In March, he became the first sitting US president since 1928 to visit the Caribbean island.