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Cuba complies with U.S. immigration accords: official

  HAVANA, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Cuba's government is strictly complying with immigration agreements signed with the United States, despite the rollback in ties under the Donald Trump administration, said a government official.

  Yuri Gala, director of U.S. affairs at Cuba's Foreign Affairs Ministry, told the Cuban News Agency (ACN), Havana is meeting all its commitments on immigration matters, particularly an agreement signed on Jan. 12, 2017, to discourage undocumented Cubans from fleeing to the United States.

  "The island has met its commitments to the U.S., since the first one in 1984, even in the most difficult circumstances of bilateral relations," according to Gala's remarks published by the news agency on Monday.

  As part of the agreement, the Untied States scrapped the so-called "dry foot-wet foot" policy that allowed Cubans who reached U.S. soil to remain and apply for residency, while those who were captured at sea were sent back.

  The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency reported the number of undocumented Cubans trying to enter the country fell from 41,523 in 2016 to 15,410 in 2017. In the first half of this year, that number came to just 4,700.

  The United States has periodically deported Cubans back to their country since January 2017, and the Cuban government has been there to receive them, Gala said.

  "However, achieving the normalization of bilateral immigration ties has been a complex issue for decades, because the White House has applied prejudiced and selective measures as a political tool to destabilize Cuba's political system," said Gala.

  Cuba and the United States restored diplomatic relations in 2015 after 54 years of political animosity and reopened their respective embassies, but Trump's administration has rolled back the thaw in ties.

  The United States pulled 60 percent of its diplomatic personnel in Havana, alleging mysterious "acoustic attacks," and expelled the same amount of Cuban diplomats from Washington, bringing the visa process to a virtual standstill.

  Cuba has expressed its concern at international forums over the "negative consequences" of "unilateral, unfounded and politically motivated" measures taken by the U.S. government.