Cuban refugee boats litter coastline

Makeshift handmade boats that Cuban refugees use to escape the regime of Fidel Castro are ending up on Cayman’s shores and being left to litter the eastern district’s waters and coastline.

It’s also having a damaging effect on the marine life in that area.

According to local fishermen, gallons of used diesel and battery oils are contaminating the water, while garbage from the boats is littering the beaches.

An outcry to government from fishermen, residents and the Department of Environment is having little effect.

‘Already the healthy marine life that used to be found around the Frank Sound dock has been severely affected,’ said fisherman Olson Levy.

‘It is a crying shame that Government would tow these boats there and just leave them.’

According to Mr. Levy Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts visited the site to assess the situation but nothing was said about what was going to be done to have the derelict boats removed.

One nearly submerged boat with all of its debris, including leaky batteries, diesel oil and a bamboo mast adorned with a back light that seemed to have came from a 1950s Chevrolet car, batters the Frank Sound dock. A sign which reads ‘Important, This is an environmentally sensitive area do not drive on the beach’ is plainly visible inside the sunken vessel.

Another floating device, marooned on the beach opposite the East End Public Library, lies on its side leaking diesel oil into the water.

This one is equipped with what looks like a 1950s truck engine rigged to a radiator, inner tubes strapped with ropes, old clothes, a number of rice bags sewn together to make a mast and numerous plastic containers. Rusted drums are strewn about the boat.

When the Immigration Department was contacted, Assistant Chief Immigration Enforcement Officer Jeannie Lewis said Immigration officers did visit the site in Frank Sound to assess the situation. The boat had sunk but they were making arrangements to get the boat out of the water. However they had to wait until low tide.

As to the one in East End she said they would be sending officers out to check it out as quickly as possible to see what could be done to have the boat removed.

‘Those boats should have been pulled out of the water immediately after those people set foot on land and were classified as immigrants and arrested by the Immigration officers,’ said Department of Environment officer Carl Edwards. ‘The reason the Immigration Department has given for not having the boats removed is resources.’

According to Mr. Edwards the government is responsible for the vessels and he has spent numerous occasions trying to get them to remove the vessels. To remove them now he said they would need a back hoe to rip them up and haul them away.

‘If the oil is left to seep into the sea and they have to get us out there with detergents to clean it up, we will be charging the Immigration Department with that.’

Along with the people in Frank Sound Mr. Edwards said they are trying to keep the beaches and coastline clean but there is not much that they can do when things like this happen.

Mr. Edwards said that Immigration promised him faithfully that boats entering into East End would not be left there.

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