US and Cuban officials plan to meet in Havana on Tuesday to discuss migration issues, the latest in a series of talks between the two governments amid one of the largest exodus from the island in decades.
The US State Department confirmed the new meeting to The Associated Press on Monday. While the agency did not provide details on what would be discussed, it noted that the talks were routine and represented a continuation of nearly 30 years of dialogue with Cuba on immigration issues as neighboring countries. The agency said the conversation would be limited to migration.
According to data from the US Customs and Border Protection office, US authorities arrested nearly 221,000 Cubans in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, representing a 471% increase from the previous year.
In September alone, US authorities arrested 26,000 Cubans at the Mexican border, according to the latest available data.
A complex mix of economic and political crises stemming from the energy crisis and devastation caused by Hurricane Ian in late September has led to a mass exodus from Cuba.
On Wednesday of last week, State Department officials traveled to Cuba to discuss expanding visa and consular services with Cuban officials. Those services were previously shut down after a series of health-related incidents in 2017.
The Biden administration also announced that visa processing would resume in January.
Tuesday’s meeting represents a slow thawing of a relationship that has always been tense but has been especially rocky since former President Donald Trump tightened US sanctions against the island.
A US official who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity said Cuba has agreed to receive the flight of Cuban migrants deported by the United States. The flight, which would be the first since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, could provide US authorities with a tool to stop Cubans crossing the border.
US officials are hopeful that progress will be made in the talks in Havana, the official said, because an end to the exodus from the island is not on the horizon.
Janetsky reported from Havana. Associated Press writer Elliot Spagut in San Diego contributed to this report.