The United States has ended its special immigration policy for migrants fleeing Cuba, which automatically allowed them to stay once they reached the US.

The migration policy was repealed last night with immediate effect as part of the ongoing normalisation of relations between the US and Cuba.

The so-called wet-foot/dry-foot policy, introduced in the 1990s, granted automatic legal status to Cuban migrants who arrived illegally in the US. 

Almost 90,000 Cubans arrived in the US this way in 2014 and 2015.

The policy was repealed last night by the outgoing Obama administration.

Now Cubans who arrive illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to deportation in the normal way.

The administration said the repeal was immediate because neither country wanted a mass exodus from Cuba in anticipation of a change in policy.

It was done following negotiations with the Cuban government, which has agreed to take back deported Cuban nationals.

In a statement President Barack Obama said ending this policy was the next step in the continued process to normalise relations between the US and Cuba.

The Cuban government described the agreement as "an important step in the advance of bilateral relations" that would ensure "regular, safe and orderly migration".