(Reuters) – The U.S. embassy in Havana resumed full immigrant visa processing and consular services for the first time since 2017 on Wednesday in a bid to stem the record-breaking flow of illegal migrants from Cuba north to the United States.
The embassy, which looms over Cuba’s waterfront Malecon boulevard, slashed services in 2017 after several of its staff were stricken with a still largely unexplained ailment dubbed “Havana Syndrome.” It was first reported among U.S. officials in 2016 and symptoms included nausea and memory lapses.
Cubans were instead required to travel to Guyana for visa processing, a costly trip well out of reach for most on the island. The U.S. embassy in Havana began limited visa processing last year and in September announced the 2023 full reopening, to “ensure safe, legal, and orderly migration of Cubans,” it said.
At sunrise on Wednesday, dozens of Cubans, some who had waited years for appointments, assembled at a small park near the embassy, fidgeting with documents and chatting with family as they awaited instructions from embassy staff.