Cubans occupy Brac church

Top police officials met with the Governor yesterday as seven officers rushed to Cayman Brac in the wake of Sunday-morning’s demonstration by 29 Cuban refugees demanding passage to Honduras.

Most of the demonstrators had been detained in Cayman Brac’s Aston Rutty Centre since 1 April. They occupied the Watering Place Church for 90 minutes on Sunday morning, displaying placards and shouting their opposition to repatriation.

Police and Immigration officers from George Town and Little Cayman, including Inspector Robert Arch of the Uniform Support Group, gathered in Cayman Brac Sunday afternoon for emergency discussions on the incident, the first of its kind.

The Cubans left the Aston Rutty Centre about 9am on Sunday, making the short walk to the church unimpeded.

The doors aren’t locked at the centre and the Cubans are not held like prisoners. They can go outside for a smoke or something without restriction according to an officer.

Additionally, only a few police oversee the detainees.

The 29 arrived in Cayman Brac in two groups. The first set of 19 refugees arrived in the Bight Area of the Brac April, followed 13 April by another 10.

Faced with the option of repatriation by Cayman authorities or continuing to Honduras, both chose to sail onward.

Government policy, based on international conventions, is neither to assist nor hinder Cubans in their flight.

The first group, however, ran aground on Little Cayman. The second developed engine trouble soon after departure.

It remains unclear why the refugees chose to occupy the church, but a second officer said the group wanted to continue to Honduras.

None of the police at the scene spoke Spanish. The officer cited Brac residents who aided negotiators.

The Cubans asked negotiators to provide a boat to them if one became available.

The officer allowed that placards held by the demonstrators might suggest pre-planning.

Police identified potential leaders of the group, but no arrests have been made, pending top-level meetings in George Town.

No damage and no injuries were reported.