Wild week for Immigration

The past holiday week was no vacation for the Department of Immigration and Customer Service.

There was an escape, an attempted suicide and a growing number of Cuban detainees packed into its George Town detention centre.

Cayman Islands Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said the incidents have led him to review operations at the centre.

‘We are currently evaluating…to make sure we have proper numbers and staffing,’ said Mr. Manderson.

Immigration officials are still investigating the Christmas night escape of 25-year-old detainee Lester Camejo Suarez.

It’s believed Suarez left the compound between 6pm and 7pm while some of the detainees were outside playing football. He was recaptured three days later without incident.

On the same day Suarez was taken back into custody, another Cuban man being kept at the detention centre attempted to kill himself.

He has since been released from hospital and was put under watch at the central police station.

Mr. Manderson called the incident unfortunate and said it’s also being investigated, but he doubted centre staff could have done anything.

‘I’ve spoken to medical personnel, spoken to everyone who was around,’ said Mr. Manderson. ‘I’m not sure how we could have prevented it unless we had that person locked in a five-by-five cell and had someone watching them all the time.’

‘It will always be a challenge to watch everyone every minute of the day.’

The number of detainees at the Immigration Detention Centre fluctuates widely.

Right now Mr. Manderson estimates 27 to 30 people are being kept there awaiting repatriation. He said the total staff is between 10 and 12 officers, who work in shifts keeping watch on the centre’s population.

A recent request for 38 additional employees at the Immigration Department does not include more staff for the IDC.

Immigration officials said policies, which require the detention and repatriation of Cuban exiles that come ashore in Cayman, will eventually force them to head somewhere else.

‘We are hoping the Cubans will get the message and bypass the Cayman Islands,’ Mr. Manderson said. He criticized one recent incident on Cayman Brac where a resident gave fuel to a boatload of migrants. ‘That’s something that I do not encourage at all.’