A Cayman Islands Immigration Department decision to allow 21 Cuban migrants temporary release from the George Town detention centre was apparently not communicated to government’s elected Cabinet ministers.
‘What I know about that (Cuban detainees’ release) is what I’ve seen on the front page of the paper,’ Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said, referring to the article ‘Cuban migrants let out’ which appeared in 9 August editions of the Caymanian Compass.
‘Obviously, this is another matter for internal discussion,’ said Tourism Minister Charles Clifford.
Earlier this year Cabinet ministers, in particular Mr. McLaughlin blasted authorities for not informing elected officials about the escape of 30 migrants from the detention centre in April.
Police and Immigration officers made the decision to allow the migrants who escaped to go on a protest march around George Town and agreed to let them speak to the media after they returned to the detention centre.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts pointed to the April escape as a reason why elected Cabinet members get frustrated over not receiving information about security-related matters.
Mr. McLaughlin said it was an example of why Cayman ‘needed constitutional change.’
Elected Cabinet members were not critical of the Immigration Department’s decision to allow the migrants’ temporary release. However, Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Clifford pointed out they simply didn’t have enough information to comment on the matter.
In the first three days of the migrants’ release between the hours of 9am and 6pm there were no problems reported and the groups of 10 and 11 Cubans who were let out returned to the detention centre more or less on time.
‘If the individuals are not a threat, or don’t pose a problem or potential problem, I don’t see any difficulty with letting them move around the community,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘We’re just not involved in that administrative (decision)…and most of the time, we’re not even advised…of what’s going on.’
The Cayman Islands’ Constitution gives the Chief Secretary, who is appointed by the Governor, responsibility for what’s known as the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs. That portfolio includes police, customs and immigration operations.
Elected members of the Legislative Assembly are not allowed to attend weekly police briefings or internal briefings of the Immigration Department, though they do approve the budget for those services.
That separation of powers has caused some friction of late, which was temporarily eased by Governor Stuart Jack’s agreement to allow regular briefings of Cabinet about developments pertaining to law and order.
Exactly how that information will be conveyed isn’t clear. The governor’s office is still trying to determine how it can best keep ministers informed on law enforcement matters.
Both Mr. Jack and Mr. Tibbetts have agreed Cayman’s Constitution prevents elected members from taking a more active role in the operation of law enforcement services.