The Cayman Islands will end up spending close to $250,000 on services for ‘refugees’ in the current government budget; mostly to support and house Cuban boat migrants who end up landing illegally on the territory’s shores.
The government initially budgeted about $28,000 for those services.
Since the end of 2008, Cayman has not seen many migrants floating in its waters on makeshift craft looking to get from here to Central America and eventually up through Mexico into the United States.
However, last year, as the Cuban economy took a downturn, immigration officials warned of an influx in Cuban migrants heading our way. By the end of November 2011, there were 36 Cuban migrants being housed in temporary trailers at the Immigration Detention Centre in George Town.
The trailers – which were the same ones used as temporary housing in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 – are empty again as the two groups of migrants who came over in October and November from Cayman Brac have been sent home.
The problem of budgeting for Cuban refugees has plagued the Cayman Islands government before. In previous years, government has seen budget estimates of $60,000 for refugee care balloon to $600,000 because large numbers of migrants inadvertently arrived in the Cayman Islands.
In addition, government officials have said additional costs may have to be incurred in dealing with Cuban migrant housing.
One of the matters being considered in the upcoming review of the local prison system is whether to move the women’s prison from the Fairbanks location to an area at the men’s lock up at Northward.
The proposal would free up space at Fairbanks for the Immigration Detention Centre, which has been shuttered because it is unsafe. The idea is to move the Cuban migrants detained in the Cayman Islands to the former women’s prison, once it is cleared out.
Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush said it was largely a matter of funding as to when that move might happen.
“It certainly couldn’t happen this budget year,” he said.