Cuba’s National Statistical Office (ONE) reported that 400,000 citizens living abroad visited the island in 2011, including 300,000 who live in the United States. The émigré arrivals are sometimes listed in the official arrivals count as “other Caribbeans.”
The number of rafters banned from returning has been estimated at 70,000 — the 35,000 who left during the Rafter Crisis in 1994, when Fidel Castro opened the doors to anyone who wanted to leave, plus those who escaped afterward. About 14,500 rafters arrived on U.S. shores in Fiscal Year 2005 to 2012 alone.
The U.S. and Cuban government signed migration pacts in 1994 and 1995 to end that crisis and assure safe migration. The pact requires the U.S. to deliver 20,000 visas to Cuban migrants per year.
Havana officials have told employees of Miami companies that handle trips to the island that the number of citizens on their don’t-come-back list in fact totals 300,000, including senior government defectors, sports figures and medical personnel.
One travel company employee said that 1 or 2 percent of Cuban Americans who request Havana’s permission to visit the island get rejected, with notices from Cuban authorities saying “Cannot Board. Illegal Exit.”
Acosta also complained that Cuba has an unfair image as a country that does not allow its people to travel abroad freely, “a great prison or tropical gulag.”
He boasted that 99.4 percent of those who requested exit permits to make personal trips abroad between 2000 and 2012 received them — a total of 941,953 people.
That works out to 78,496 Cubans allowed to travel abroad per year for a country with a population of 11.2 million people. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimated that 30 million U.S. residents travelled abroad in 2009 alone.
Acosta added that out of the 941,953, those who did not return totaled 120,705, for a defection rate about 10,000 a year or 12.8 percent. That number does not include Cubans who leave illegally or those who leave with migrant visas.