Luarca, UN met before strike

A protection officer from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees met with Cuban national Luis Luarca Garcia just days before he commenced his hunger strike that lasted more than three weeks.

A letter sent to Mr. Luarca on 21 February by Senior Regional Protection Officer Janice Marshall noted that the UNHCR fielded a mission to the Cayman Islands from 26 to 28 January and that during that mission, another protection officer met with Mr. Luarca for about two hours.

‘During that time [the protection officer] attempted to understand your concerns and problems and to analyse your situation as against the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees,’ Ms Marshall wrote.

‘She concluded, as I had in respect of your earlier requests to UNHCR, that the bulk of the issues you raise are not directly related to your status as a refugee and that your current complaints against the Government of the Cayman Islands are not as a result of a failure of the Government to abide by its obligations under international refugee law.’

Mr. Luarca began his hunger strike30 January.

The letter noted that Ms Marshall had numerous telephone conversations with Mr. Luarca during his hunger strike, and that he had sent her e-mail messages on 20 and 21 February.

Ms Marshall also noted Mr. Luarca had requested another UNHCR mission to Cayman. However, Ms Marshall said that, given the circumstances, she believed there was ‘nothing to be gained from a UNHCR mission at this time’.

Regardless, Ms Marshall told Mr. Luarca he had achieved a ‘high profile in the Cayman Islands for issues related to respect to human rights’.

Ms Marshall also stated to Mr. Luarca that the protection officer was following up on his complaint to the Labour Office regarding a security guard job he had applied for, which was given to a Caymanian.

In addition, M. Marshall noted that Cayman’s Chief Immigration Officer had requested the UNHCR provide dedicated training in international refugee law for Immigration Officers working in the field of refugee protection.

‘Once we are able to allocated funds and human resources for this event, we will at the same time that we come for this purpose, be more than happy to meet with you again an discuss your case.’

Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin, who is also the chairman of Cayman’s Human Rights Committee, said Friday the Committee had met the day before and discussed Mr. Luarca’s complaint.

‘We have three formal complaints at the moment and his is the first,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.

The Committee agreed that Mr. Luarca’s complaint did raise important human rights issues, but that further information was needed before it could prepare its report, Mr. McLaughlin said, adding that once completed, the report would be delivered to Government and made public.

Mr. McLaughlin also received a letter from the UNHCR on 21 February, although his was from Regional Representative Kolude Doherty.

The letter commended Cayman’s Human Rights Committee for undertaking the investigation into Mr. Luarca’s case and offered help, in particular advice or technical assistance relating to the status of refugees.

‘We welcome the involvement of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees,’ said Mr. McLaughlin.

Mr. Luarca ended his hunger strike last week and has sought legal advice for a possible law suit against the Cayman Islands Government.

‘I am glad he ended his hunger strike before his health was seriously affected,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.

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