Cuba imposes travel permit for doctors to limit brain drain

The Cuban government on Tuesday reimposed a travel permit requirement on several doctors, requiring them to get permission to leave the country in an attempt to counter a brain drain that it blames on the United States.

The new policy was announced just hours after the end of a meeting Monday between US and Cuban negotiators in Washington to address a crisis in Cuban migration, which has reached its highest levels in at least two decades.

The announcement, made on the front page of state media said health professionals in specialties that have been drained by large-scale emigration in recent years will now be required to get permission from Health Ministry officials in order to leave the country.

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This is the first major reverse in Cuba’s policy of allowing unrestricted travel for its citizens.

The policy was implemented in 2013 when President Raul Castro allowed new freedoms as part of a broad set of social and economic reforms.

Cuban doctors cite low pay, poor working conditions and the possibility of well-compensated jobs in other countries as their primary reasons for emigrating.

The Cuban government places the blame on the U.S. policy of granting automatic legal residency to Cuban immigrants, with special fast-track benefits for doctors who abandon government medical missions overseas.