Police Thursday arrested a man who was among a crowd of people gathered at the West Bay dock to watch a boat carrying 30 Cuban migrants that had stopped offshore.
The Cubans, including 29 men and one woman, anchored off North West Point, telling marine police and immigration officers they were having trouble with their engine.
Some among the crowd of about 50 Cubans and Caymanians questioned why they were not allowed to give the people on the boat water and food.
Police, who were at the scene to assist the Immigration Department with the Cuban migrants, arrested a 47-year-old at the car park at the dock for assaulting police, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Police later said the arrest was not connected with the Cuban migrants. The man was released on police bail.
Police officers wrestled him to the ground and tried to handcuff him to shouts of “that’s abuse” and “let the man go” from the crowd. Officers spent several minutes trying to restrain him and place him inside a police car, as members of the crowd closed in, calling on police to release him and not hurt him.
As things got more heated and the man repeatedly refused to get in the car, resisting police’s efforts to push and pull him inside, several people tried to calm the situation down by talking to the police and the arrested man, including Bernie Bush, who was spending his first day as an elected representative of West Bay.
The officers eventually got the man inside the vehicle, but moments later, he was out again.
At this point, the armed response unit turned up at the scene and police officers surrounded the vehicle, keeping the crowd back as police again tried to get the man into the vehicle, using a baton to stop him kicking and to attempt to get his legs inside the car.
Meanwhile, offshore, the Cubans had repaired their boat and were getting ready to raise anchor. As the police left with the arrested man in the back of a car, people walked back to the dock to wave goodbye to the Cubans and cheer as they took off back out to sea.
Cubans living in Cayman had went to the dock to try to help the migrants. According to people at the scene, police would not allow chips and bottles of water to be taken to the group on the boat. Two cartons of water bottles and Lays potato chips lay on the sand beside the dock as the boat pulled away and out to the open sea after the boat was repaired.
Under the terms of Cayman’s memorandum of understanding with Cuba signed in 1999, Cubans who enter Cayman’s waters on vessels can choose to land here and receive care in accordance with international conventions. Cabinet regulations passed in January 2005 state that if the migrants choose to continue their journey elsewhere, they cannot be offered any assistance or be allowed to land to repair their vessels.
Two men from the boat had swum ashore to the foot of the dock and asked for sunglasses. One man on the dock threw his own sunglasses to the men, while another man ran off and returned minutes later with many pairs of new sunglasses that were placed into a plastic container which could float as the men swam back to their boat.
Immigration officials on board a Joint Marine Unit vessel escorted the boat out of Cayman Islands territorial waters.
Mr. Bush said he considered the policy of not assisting Cuban migrants to be a violation of human rights.
“Where are the human rights in this? The people don’t want to land on this shore, but don’t tell us we can‘t go out there and give them water and food and provisions to continue their journey. They say we have to meet them 12 miles out and all kinds of stupidness … whoever made that law should be ashamed of themselves.
This is a living disgrace,” he said.
Speaking to a supporter on the phone at the scene, Mr. Bush: “Can you imagine on my first day I got to watch police brutalise one of my West Bayers and watch them try to starve some Cubans? This is a rough first day.”