An incident in which three men landed in Grand Cayman without going through Immigration exemplified the porosity of this country’s borders, Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said last week.
‘We do have a problem with people entering and leaving’ without going through Immigration, she commented.
She was dealing with three Jamaican nationals who said they had come here for help after their boat was running low on fuel.
Rohan Antony Ebanks, 34; Mackiro Allan Manderson, 18; and Joseph Martin Daily, 21 arrived in Cayman on Wednesday, 29 March and were brought to court the following week. They were charged with landing without the specific permission of an Immigration officer and remanded in custody pending further investigations (Caymanian Compass, 6 April).
Last week they entered guilty pleas.
Ebanks, the captain of the vessel, was asked to tell his story again. He maintained that the three men had left Jamaica in a fishing boat, heading for Honduras and following a next fishing boat.
They ended up in difficulty because they were running out of gas. One drum was finished and they were changing over. Then they realised they had lost sight of the other boat.
After staying in the area for awhile, Ebanks looked at his Global Positioning System and saw that Cayman was the nearest place. They put in here to get assistance to go home, he summarised.
According to facts outlined by Crown Counsel Trevor Ward and input from Ebanks and an Immigration officer, the three men landed in the South Sound area sometime around 4 – 6am. Contact with authorities was not made until hours later.
Ebanks said the other men stayed on the boat and slept while he went looking for help. But he also acknowledged going into a store at Grand Harbour to purchase cigarettes ‘because we all smoke.’
He said he was walking up and down and saw a man who had a cell phone. He asked if the man could call police or someone to help, but the man said he didn’t have any credit on the phone.
He said another man called police. The officer in court said he understood that area residents called authorities, thinking that the men were Cubans.
The magistrate asked if the boat had been examined forensically and was told yes. There was no evidence of drugs and nothing to show that the boat had been used for any nefarious purpose.
During a previous appearance, Ebanks admitted having criminal convictions in Jamaica. The other two defendants did not have any record.
The magistrate indicated that the men had probably been kept in custody while police investigated their arrival more thoroughly. There was nothing to suggest they had come here for any wrong purpose, nothing to contradict the assertion that Ebanks did speak to someone to get help.
The purpose of the legislation is to keep people from coming here without authorities knowing about it, she pointed out. In this case, there was no indication the men were trying to circumvent the law.
In all the circumstances, although this was an offence of strict liability, there was no need for any further penalty. The time they had already served was time enough. The magistrate said no convictions would be recorded.
She directed Immigration officers to remove the men with dispatch so they would not be a burden on the state. The men were to be assisted to leave and escorted outside Cayman waters, where they would be free to go wherever they wanted.
As the three defendants left the dock, Manderson, the 18 year old, declared, ‘I’m not leaving Jamaica again!’