True to their word, members of the Human Rights Commission
have asked the government to do a re-think about the memorandum of
understanding between the Cayman Islands and Cuba.
Bravo, we say. It’s about time.
We believe the current MOU – agreed to and signed on 15
April, 1999 – flies in the face of the rights of human beings.
Basically the agreement says that any Cubans who come to the
Cayman Islands illegally will be repatriated. It also makes it illegal for
anyone in the Cayman Islands to equip Cuban migrants with food, water or fuel,
although residents do that anyway.
Most of us who live here would go out of our way to give the
migrants traversing our water emergency provisions and aid.
Usually the Cubans who find themselves on our shores are
travelling in poorly equipped vessels on their way to Honduras in search for a
better life. We would think that most Cubans know about the MOU and wouldn’t
trouble with coming to Cayman’s shores unless they needed help.
While we don’t want an influx of Cubans coming permanently
to the Cayman Islands, we must have a more humane way of dealing with them and
letting them know that repatriation isn’t the sole solution to their illegal
landing in our country.
While government is addressing the MOU with Cuba, something
also needs to be done with the holding facility where Cubans are taken when
they do come to our shores illegally.
The Cayman Islands Immigration Detention Centre has fallen
into disrepair and is considered uninhabitable. Over the years the facility has
seen several escapes, the latest one being last month.
Considering redrawing the MOU with Cuba needs much thought
and discussion, but the agreement is outdated.
The Cayman Islands needs Cuba more than Cuba needs us. That
will become even more evident if and when the United States lifts sanctions
against Cuba and allows its citizens to freely travel to and from our neighbour to the north. Once that
happens, Cuba will be a direct competitor to our tourism product.