Cuban refugees moor in Cayman Waters

    Fifteen men and one woman travelled three days by boat from Cuba

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    A boat carrying 16 Cubans arrived in Grand Cayman Monday morning and spent several hours moored off two sites before continuing on their journey.

    This was the first time since 2009 that Cuban refugees have been spotted in local waters.

    The passengers, 15 men and one woman, refused to come ashore, apparently knowing that if they did so, they were likely to be detained by immigration officers and repatriated to Cuba.

    Immigration officers and Marine Police escorted the crowded boat to 12 Mile Banks after the Cubans said they wanted to continue, saying they had 20 gallons of fuel on board.

    A local resident alerted authorities on Monday morning after the boat was moored to a buoy in front of his house at Prospect Point around 8.10am.

    Police and Immigration officers on a Marine Police vessel went to speak with the Cubans, who had been at sea for three days, and persuaded them to follow them to another location after the passengers apparently informed them they were low on fuel. Originally the boats’ destination was Red Bay Dock at South Sound but water conditions led to a change of plan and the boats made for Jackson Point instead.

    As they neared the jetty, the Cubans moored their 21-foot-long boat to a buoy. “They don’t want to come in,” said Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans, who along with other immigration officers and police officers waited at the jetty at Jackson Point to see what the Cubans would choose to do.

    Cayman’s official policy on refugees is not to offer fuel or food or other assistance. “We cannot facilitate illegal migration,” said Ms Evans.

    A detention centre that has previously housed Cuban refugees has been empty since 2008 and is in disrepair. If the Cubans had been detained, it was likely they would have had to be accommodated in a community centre, Ms Evans said.

    The Cuban boat also stopped off at Cayman Brac on its journey. Ms Evans said the boat was seen in the Brac at 8.35am Sunday and left three hours later. “They did not want any assistance,” she said.

    She added that the passengers said they had left Cuba on Friday morning.

    The last time Cuban refugees landed in Cayman was in October 2009 when two fishermen came ashore, the chief immigration officer said. One was repatriated and the other is seeking asylum in an ongoing case, Ms Evans said. Prior to that, the last incidents of Cubans coming ashore or being detained in Cayman was in 2008.

    “We asked them yesterday why we had not seen so much of them lately. They said basically that the government had clamped down on security of all its borders and stepped up penalties for trying to land [overseas],” said Ms Evans.

    It is believed that the Cubans were heading for Honduras.

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    A boat filled with Cuban migrants sits off Jackson Point as officers in Marine Unit Tornado attempt to determine whether the Cubans will move on or be detained. They chose to leave the Cayman Islands.
    Photo: Justin Uzzell

    1 COMMENT

    1. When asked if they planned to come ashore they replied

      based on your countrys woefully inadequate policing policy, increased violent crime,short sighted roll-over policy and the fact that your a well known cocaine hub are you insane? were off to the relative safety and comfort of Haiti…

    2. These are destitute people, desperate to escape a communist country and risk their lives. The average wage in Cuba is 20.00 a MONTH !!! Could you live on that ? They leave Cuba with the shirt on their back and not much more, risking all to start a new, free life. We should help them by offering gas and provisions, food etc for compassionate and humanitarian reasons. Ok, if you dont want to bring them to shore — but to just refuse to offer any assistance and shove them off to go elsewhere will certainly result in a lot of them dying and never reaching their destination. As for the writer saying the Immigration Dept doesnt want to facilitate illegal migration, this is just plain cruel and heartless. One boat a year? or 2 a year? What do you think, that you will start seeing convoys of Cubans? They are human beings in need — and they come ashore once in a blue moon. This is not the Christian way.

    3. Immigration officers and Marine Police escorted the crowded boat to 12 Mile Banks after the Cubans said they wanted to continue, saying they had 20 gallons of fuel on board.

      I dont believe that little boat could carry anymore than 20 Gallons. They would have to drop off a few crew to make room for the gas..

    4. I wonder how those cubans are doing ???they should of have been allowed to stay …If they were criminals they would of been locked up in cuba a long time ago …They would of made wonderful members of the community…The proof that they were good people is the fact they did not take your police dingy..

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