US, Cuba resume migration talks

The United States and Cuba on Wednesday resumed talks on safe, legal migration between the two neighbors, they said.

AFP| Updated: Jul 10, 2014, 09:28 AM IST

Washington: The United States and Cuba on Wednesday resumed talks on safe, legal migration between the two neighbors, they said.

The discussions were led by US State Department official Alex Lee, and Cuban foreign ministry official Josefina Vidal, a US State Department spokesman told AFP.

The meeting -- the third held since talks resumed a year ago -- centered on "technical issues" related to the 1994 and 1995 accords on migration, the spokesman added.

The immigration talks were "consistent with our interest in promoting greater freedoms and increased respect for human rights in Cuba" and "do not represent a change" in US policy towards Havana, the State Department said.

In Havana, the foreign ministry published an official note expressing "satisfaction" and said the meeting was held "in a respectful environment."

But the Cuban delegation insisted it would be impossible to stop illegal emigration from the Communist island as long as special US rules for Cuban emigrants remained in effect, the statement added.

The 1966 "Cuban Adjustment Law" says any Cuban who reaches US soil by any means will be allowed to stay, live and work. Cubans who are caught at sea, before setting foot on US territory, however, are sent back.

The United States does not accord this treatment -- pre-approved US residence and work permits for all emigrants who reach US soil -- to people leaving any other nation on earth. It was hard won by Cuban-American lawmakers keen to embarrass Havana.

Cuba blames the law for encouraging people to board rickety boats to cross the Florida straits in the hopes of reaching the US coast -- a perilous process that has left thousands dead over decades.

The two sides also discussed the situation of Alan Gross, detained in Cuba since 2009 and serving a 15-year jail term after being convicted of "acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state" for allegedly distributing communications equipment as a contractor for the USAID development aid agency.

Washington "regularly raises our concerns" regarding the Gross case in meetings with Havana, the US statement said. The United States has asked Gross be released on humanitarian grounds.
The US and Cuba have not had full diplomatic relations since 1961. In 1962, Washington imposed an economic embargo on the island.