Immigration expects Cuban influx
By: Brent Fuller | firstname.lastname@example.org
23 November, 2011
For the first time in a few years, the Cayman Islands Immigration
Detention Centre is brimming full of Cuban migrants after two boatloads
arrived here within the past two months.
Last weekend, a group of 17 Cuban migrants – 16 men and one woman – were
taken into custody after their boat ran aground on the Brac. They were
transferred to Grand Cayman on Wednesday.
The latest group joined 19 Cuban boat migrants who arrived in the
Islands in October and are also being held in the detention centre,
meaning a total of 36 migrants are now being housed there awaiting
Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans said, based on the intelligence
her department has gathered from arriving migrants, Cayman can expect to
see a lot more makeshift Cuban vessels entering its waters.
"[The migrants] mention that because of the financial problems [in
Cuba], there's not as much patrolling along the coasts as there used to
be," Ms Evans said. "We think we're going to experience a lot more boats."
Since the last large influx of Cuban migrants was sent home from the
Immigration Detention Centre, the Immigration Department has rearranged
the housing set up at the centre.
Ms Evans said seven mobile homes used to house residents whose homes
were destroyed during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 have now been placed on the
detention centre property.
Previously, migrants were kept in a single building lined with bunk beds
which became hot if too many people were crammed into one area.
The overcrowding situation was blamed for a number of escapes from the
detention ?centre during 2007 and 2008.
Generally, Cuban migrants are not thought to be dangerous, but Caymanian
authorities have no way of checking the backgrounds of all who arrive.
According to Cayman's memorandum of understanding with the Cuban
government, migrants who land illegally in the Islands are repatriated
to their homeland. Until they are sent home, Cayman's Immigration
Department is responsible for the undocumented migrants' feeding and
If a Cuban boat is found in Cayman Islands waters it is usually allowed
to continue on its journey.
However, if the passengers run into trouble and have to come ashore they
are taken into custody.
According to the sister of one of the migrants found on the Brac last
Saturday, the boaters who came ashore were simply seeking to refuel
their vessel before moving on. Ibaña Seguarado said her brother,
Fernando, and the crew aboard the vessel came to shore with that
"Unfortunately, the police catch them," Ms Seguarado said. "They didn't
want to return to Cuba. He wanted to run away from there."
Ms Seguarado said her brother was simply seeking to better his life by
moving away from Cuba, where he could not find a decent paying job to
help his family.
The Immigration Department's policy on Cuban migrants typically defines
individuals in Mr. Seguarado's case as "economic migrants" – not
political asylum seekers. If the department is convinced that such men
will not face torture or retribution upon returning home, they will
usually allow them to be repatriated.
The department does allow asylum seekers to remain in Cayman under
certain circumstances set out in United Nations human rights' conventions.
Ms Seguarado said her brother will face more difficulty when he is
"They will watch him and punish him for any little thing he does wrong,"
she said, speaking over the phone from Sweden.
The Caymanian Compass was unable by press time to contact any of the
Cuban migrants being kept in the Immigration Detention Centre.