14ymedio, Havana/Madrid, October 3, 2023 — Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba’s minister in charge of begging for foreign exchange, oil and debt renegotiation for the benefit of the Havana regime, began on Monday a working visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country that exempts Cubans from visas and is becoming a springboard for those fleeing the Island.
Officially, the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment traveled to that federation of emirates, on the shore of the Persian Gulf, to thank the local authorities “for the funds provided to various social projects in Cuba.”
The delegation, made up of several officials of the Island and their Emirati counterparts, will “review the state of trade, financial and cooperation relations in various spheres (…) to materialize the will expressed by both Governments to raise the ties of cooperation to the same level of the excellent political-diplomatic relations they have maintained during the last 20 years.”
The vagueness of the statement makes one suspect that Cabrisas, once again, is on a mission to search for and capture financial and oil aid to alleviate the disastrous situation of the Cuban economy.
The vagueness of the statement suggests that Cabrisas, once again, is on a mission to search for and capture financial and oil aid
In line with this visit, 14ymedio has contacted some of the Cubans living in Dubai, the main city in the Emirates. Dayana, a 35-year-old journalist from Cienfuegos who emigrated to Dubai in 2022 with her family and then traveled to Spain, explains that, despite not knowing what she was going to find upon her arrival, she and her husband – both employees at the University of Cienfuegos – decided to move with their children to the UAE due to the difficult economic situation on the Island. The simplicity of processing the visa – in a matter of days – and the opportunity to be legalized quickly, were key factors when choosing the country to which they would emigrate.
The problem, she says, “is that you have to have an account abroad or a friend who can pay for this procedure, because it can’t be done from the Cuban banks. Likewise, you have to buy basic travel insurance, which is also done online, and you need to pay for it from abroad.”
The family gathered the money to pay for the visas (169 dollars plus travel insurance of 99 dollars) and the plane tickets, whose price was around 1,300 dollars, more or less the price paid for a flight to Nicaragua. “The tickets are expensive because the journey is very long, and there is always a stopover somewhere. So you have to make sure that the country of call is also free of visas or apply for a transit visa,” she explains. Among the countries most frequently used for transit are Turkey, Russia and Germany.
The tourist visa with which you arrive in Dubai is only for 60 days, but it can be extended, and it is time that, according to Dayana, emigrants take advantage of to get a job and have their employer manage their residence or apply for it themselves. “A lot of work is done in all sectors of tourism as a cook, clerk, receptionist, musician, event organizer, dancer,” she says. Also, finding a job can be easier if you know some other language, because “speaking English or, in the best of cases, Arabic, opens many doors.”
The tourist visa with which you arrive in Dubai is only for 60 days but can be extended, and it is time that, according to Dayana, emigrants take advantage of to get a job
“You can get to the country now with an employment contract, which means that the contracting company usually pays the travel expenses and health insurance; in addition, in many cases they help with the rent. But this is not common,” she says.
Javier, a habanero who worked as a tour guide in Cuba, was lucky that the 360 Agency, a company that connects employees from around the world with companies in the Middle East, recommended him to a hotel in Dubai.
“After several interviews I was hired with all the expenses paid, including my departure from Cuba,” says Javier, who also explains that his wife, whose expenses were not covered by the company, managed to get hers paid through Dubai Hispano, a company that is in charge of processing this type of situation.
The former tour guide, who has the advantage of speaking English, recognizes that opportunities are not the same for everyone who arrives in Dubai. “I know a couple of Cubans who arrived without knowing English and found work taking care of houses rented by a Colombian. She cleans, and he maintains and assists customers in general,” he said, explaining that the UAE is not only a popular destination among Cubans but also among many Latin Americans.
You have to have a very good salary to be able to pay for a school (even if it is the cheapest of all) and much more to afford good health insurance. Nothing is free
“The good thing here is that you arrive and you are already a person when you enter the airport. You don’t spend months without papers or sweating because the mail from the Embassy doesn’t arrive,” he says. “The processes to legalize you here in Dubai are extremely simple. This is because it is the Government’s intention that certain positions be occupied by foreigners.”
As for the cost of living, “rent is one of the biggest expenses and depends on the site,” and prices start at $500 for a small apartment, up to a more comfortable two-bedroom apartment for $1,000. “With tourist status it is not difficult to get something, but it will always be more expensive because you can’t have it for a long time. After being a resident you can opt for a long-term contract, which allows you to pay a little less,” says Dayana, who arrived with two children aged 8 and 10, who had to enroll in a private school, since there is no public education.
“You have to have a very good salary to be able to pay for a school (even if it is the cheapest of all) and much more to afford good health insurance. Nothing is free,” she says. Annually, the most affordable schools in Dubai charge more than $1,000 per student. The most expensive can be close to $10,000.
“The standard of living is very expensive, all tourist attractions, shops, services. Except for the food, if you know where to buy, of course. There are very cheap markets and others that are extremely expensive,” enumerates the journalist, who says that in Emirati society, especially one as varied as that of Dubai, very different lifestyles coexist.
“The culture is totally different, the way of life, of communicating, dressing, eating, interacting in society. It is a contradictory city, with a lot of consumerism, extremely modern and technological, but at the same time with an ancient mentality trying to adapt to the 21st century. Very patriarchal, capitalist, regulatory and authoritarian.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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