U.S. Response to the 1994 Cuban Migration Crisis Gao ID: NSIAD-95-211 September 18, 1995

This report reviews the U.S. government's efforts to cope with the mass exodus of people from Cuba in the summer of 1994. GAO (1) describes how U.S. policy toward those seeking to leave Cuba has changed since then, (2) identified the agencies and the costs to the U.S. government associated with the exodus of Cubans, (3) assesses the capabilities of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to process applicants seeking legal entry into the United States, and (4) evaluates the adequacy of living conditions at the Cuban safe haven camps at the U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay.

GAO found that: (1) for over 30 years, fleeing Cubans had been welcomed to the United States; however, the U.S. government reversed this policy on August 19, 1994, when President Clinton announced that Cuban rafters interdicted at sea would no longer be brought to the United States and would be taken to safe haven camps at the U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with no opportunity for eventual entry into the United States other than by returning to Havana to apply for entry through legal channels at the U.S. Interests Section; (2) on September 9, 1994, the U.S. and Cuban governments agreed that the United States would allow at least 20,000 Cubans to enter annually in exchange for Cuba's pledge to prevent further unlawful departures by rafters; (3) on May 2, 1995, a White House announcement was released stating that: Cubans interdicted at sea would not be taken to a safe haven but would be returned to Cuba where they could apply for entry into the United States at the Interest Section in Havana, eligible Cubans in the safe haven camps would be paroled into the United States, and those found to be ineligible for parole would be returned to Cuba; (4) several U.S. agencies have been involved in implementing the U.S. policy regarding Cubans wishing to leave their country including the: (a) Department of Defense which will spend about $434 million from August 1994 through September 1995 operating the safe haven camps, (b) U.S. Coast Guard which spent about $7.8 million interdicting Cubans at sea from August 1994 to the present, (c) Department of Justice's Immigration and Naturalization Service and Community Relations Service which together will spend about $48.6 million for the Cuban migration crisis from August 1994 through September 1995, and (d) Department of State which will spend an estimated $7.1 million during this same period; (5) the U.S. Interests Section in Havana has been able to meet the workload of processing applicants seeking legal entry into the United States; (6) as of June 9, 1995, it had approved 16,305 Cubans for U.S. entry; however, not all those approved will leave Cuba by September 1995, the anniversary of the September 1994 agreement; (7) the Cubans' living conditions at the Guantanamo Bay safe haven camps are difficult but adequate based on GAO's observations at the camps; and (8) conditions in all camps generally exceeded U.N. inspection guidelines for minimal shelter, food, and water, but found no internationally accepted standards of what the living conditions should be at refugee camps.

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