HAVANA (AFP) – Five years after it was closed due to mysterious “sonic attacks” on diplomatic staff, the United States (US) consulate in Havana resumes full immigrant visa services for Cubans yesterday.
The re-opening comes amid a record exodus from the communist island to the US, mainly by undocumented migrants, as Cuba suffers its worst economic crisis in 30 years.
The embassy said in a statement, “The US is working to ensure safe, legal, and orderly migration of Cubans by expanding consular operations in Havana and restarting the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Programme (CFRP).”
The consulate would open fully for “immigrant visa processing,”, though tourist visas remain off limits for now. The consulate was closed under the Donald Trump administration after diplomatic staff and their families fell ill with symptoms later nicknamed Havana Syndrome.
US missions in other countries also subsequently claimed to have been targetted, but the exact nature of the alleged attacks remains a mystery. The closure of the consulate meant that Cubans seeking to travel to the US faced an expensive administrative obstacle course.
They had to travel to a third country, usually Guyana in the north of South America, to submit visa requests.
Analyst Michael Shifter of Georgetown University in Washington told AFP , “It is a good sign that the governments of both countries are talking to each other about how to manage migration flows in an orderly and rational way.”