The Legal Status of 10,000 Cubans Is at Risk Due to Uruguay’s New Immigration Requirements

Uruguay’s stability and economy have made it a preferred southern destination for Cubans. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 16 May 2023 — Nearly 10,000 Cubans living in Uruguay may lose their legal status if nothing happens. The Government of the South American country has become serious about an immigration requirement that has been in force for years. A few months ago Uruguay started requiring the accreditation of legal entry from Brazil, which thousands of people do not have.

According to the Uruguayan media El Observador on Tuesday, two years ago thousands of Cubans who could not be considered refugees arrived in the country and asked for this type of status, although they later renounced the application. Now, they are required to apply for a visa to reside in Uruguay, but for this they must show the entry and exit stamps from Brazil that accredit their regular transit. This puts them in a difficult situation without a resolution.

“Our most conservative calculation is that between 9,000 and 10,000 Cubans living in Uruguay could be left in the limbo of being  irregular, due to the new demands,” Alberto Gianotti of the Migrant Support Network told the media.

Cubans began to arrive in Uruguay significantly six years ago, when US President Barack Obama put an end to the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, and migrants from the Island began to look for other destinations.

Uruguay, one of the richest countries in the region, attracted Cubans, who began to double the number of immigrants after arriving on a route that began in Guyana, visa-free for residents of the Island. From there, they crossed the enormous jungles of Brazil on a very complicated journey and circumvented border controls after paying coyotes, who took them to the South American country, where they asked for refuge.

During the time their application was processed, those affected received temporary residence, which provided them with access to education, health and employment, but when their requests were rejected — since the Government considered that they could not prove a danger to life — they had to process their stay in the country.

El Observador affirms that Cubans then resorted to a trick that consisted of making an appointment at the consulates bordering Brazil and simulating a new entry. The transit seal requirement in the neighboring country was already in force but was never required. Since 2023, the immigration authorities have been ordered to start demanding it.

Cuba, along with Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is one of the very few Latin American countries from which Uruguay requires a visa and does so in application of the principle of reciprocity, so the Government rejects the revocation of the permit, as requested by some organizations for the defense of the rights of migrants.

El Observador affirms that Uruguay has no intention “to deport undocumented immigrants, much less that irregular inhabitants accumulate,” with the consequent problems that would result from it, so Montevideo is rushing to find a solution, which is not expected to be easy.

“We are fighting to remove the visa requirement, not only to solve the underlying problem, but also to prevent migrants from relying on human trafficking networks and organized crime to get to Uruguay,” Gianotti told the media.

Rinche Roodenburg, another source from El Observador who works in a humanitarian organization, defends national policy in general terms but admits that it is normal for inconveniences to arise. “Uruguay has good intentions, regardless of the government of the day, and respects the right to migrate, but from time to time bureaucratic obstacles appear that end up curtailing rights and leaving thousands in limbo,” he said.

Sources from the Foreign Ministry told El Observador that “the intention of the State is to find a substantive solution and to make  immigration as regular as possible,” but visa exemption is impossible.

Obtaining refugee status in Uruguay has been difficult for Cubans. In the first six months of last year, only three people succeeded, and data from the Refugee Commission indicate that they are the most rejected national group, 85% of the total, while Venezuelans were approved at a rate of 100%.

The Foreign Ministry then pointed out that the majority of Cubans allege economic reasons in the process. “And economic reasons, when they say it in the interview, are not reasons that justify refuge.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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