Since the Cuban government introduced reforms five years ago that broaden the ability for Cubans living abroad to seek permanent residency on the island, more than 40,000 Cuban nationals from around the world have applied for “repatriation” to the island, Cuban diplomat Ernesto Soberón said over the weekend during a meeting with Cubans living in Europe.
According to Soberón, director of Consular Affairs at the Cuban foreign ministry, 40,603 Cubans living abroad have applied for permanent residence on the island, a process known as repatriation. The official did not clarify if that number corresponds to the approved requests.
It is also unclear how many of those granted the repatriation permit plan to return to the island and make Cuba their permanent home. Many repatriation seekers do it to have their civil and economic rights reinstated — for example, their right to own real estate on the island. Meanwhile, many continue to live in other countries, including the United States.
Cuba’s immigration reform, which took effect in January 2013, eliminated the so-called exit permit for islanders, although the government continues to prevent some activists and opponents from leaving the country. Changes in the law also permit Cubans to remain abroad for two years before being classified as an “emigrant,” which would strip them of legal residency on the island, as well as various civil, economic and political rights, according to current government regulations.
The change has allowed many Cubans who emigrated after January 2013 to obtain permanent residency status in both the United States and Cuba, for example, a paradox the Cuban government has used to change their migration statistics and argue that those Cubans have not really left……