What Happens to Cubans Who Fail In Their Attempt to Leave the Island?
Recently, a read asked me, “What would happen to a Cuban who tried to leave Cuba, on an illegal boat, and was unsuccessful? Would they face jail time, fines or any type of persecutions?
And here is my answer:
It’s difficult to get accurate information online about the repercussions of a failed exile attempt. Lots of posts online state that you get in big trouble, but most of these posters seem to have ulterior motives and agendas (ie, they are simply spreading negative rumors.)
I have lots of Cuban friends and the general consensus is that, these days, basically nothing happens to the person trying to leave. They are simply processed (id checked and potentially detained for a day or two to find if they have done any crimes or if they are in trouble in any way, and then returned home.
They don’t lose their job or anything, unless they work in a sensitive industry (Ministry of Interior, or higher government position). I know of a couple of people who have fled, and I have personally talked with a few who tried unsuccessfully (they were picked up at sea once their motor boat sputtered out). They simply went back to their lives. Nothing happened at all…
But, that being said, there are negative implications if you are organizing the boat trips and taking money for promising safe passage away from the island. It’s considered a form of human smuggling and it is actually a very dangerous endeavor (many Cubans die trying to raft away from the island), so if you are found to be running an organization that brings people across, you get in huge trouble.
More Info on Cuban Exiles and Rafters
Cuban rafters are called balseros. If you are interested in getting more information about the history of rafting asylum seekers, check out the Wikipedia page here.
Learn More About Cuban Culture And about Cuban Exiles
Get all the information in the best Cuban Travel book: The Real Havana Guide.