Updated 7 a.m. Tuesday: A Cuban national who escaped from the Immigration Detention Centre near Fairbanks Prison is back in custody after turning himself in Monday night.
The 24-year-old Cuban national escaped from the Immigration Detention Centre near Fairbanks Prison shortly before noon Monday.
Yasmani Ampudia Remon was last seen around 11:45 a.m. Monday wearing black jeans and a black shirt, according to the Cayman Islands Immigration Department. He is 5 feet, 6 inches tall.
It is believed that Remon hid in the immediate vicinity of the detention center.
Cayman Islands law enforcement authorities respond to an average of nearly 13 incidents each year where they have been called for illegal landings by boat migrants or situations where those migrants are stranded offshore. It’s not necessarily a common occurrence, but the migrants who are taken into custody from the illegal landings do flee the low-security facility at times.
Both the custody escapes and the illegal landings put a significant strain on the Cayman Islands government’s annual budget.
Between 2003 and 2012, government records show there have been 129 incidents where police have responded to reports involving “Cuban migrants” or “Cuban refugees.” In only three years over the past decade – 2004, 2006, and 2008 – have there been more than 20 such calls in any one year. More recently, those types of calls have fallen off with Cayman reporting just three such incidents in 2010, nine in 2011 and seven during 2012.
Although there was a comparatively low number of calls involving Cuban migrants coming to Cayman Islands shores at that time, the local government still had to spend significant public funds responding to those situations.
The Cayman Islands expected to spend nearly $250,000 between July 2011 and June 2012 on “services for refugees”; mostly to support and house Cuban boat migrants who end up landing illegally on the territory’s shores. At the beginning for that fiscal year, the government initially budgeted about $28,000 for those services.
In 2011, a downturn in the Cuban economy was blamed for the resurgence 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 were later declared unsafe for human habitation.
The temporary housing issue for Cuban migrants is one of several human rights concerns now pressing on the Cayman Islands with the coming into force of the 2009 Constitution Order’s Bill of Rights.
The Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission has asked government to consider redrafting a 1999 agreement between the British Overseas Territory and Cuba that dictates how migrants from that country are to be dealt with when they illegally land on local shores.
Cayman generally does not consider most of the Cubans that inadvertently land here as refugees, as the term is defined under international conventions. The travelers, mostly men, are usually looking to get into Honduras and then head up through Central America to the United States to find work.
The memorandum of understanding, signed on April 15, 1999, between the Cayman Islands and Cuba sets out how the Cayman Islands handles repatriation of Cuban citizens.
Following a lengthy review of the issue, the Human Rights Commission recommended in late 2012 that the deputy governor and attorney general rework the existing memorandum of understanding with Cuba signed between Cayman Islands and Cuban governments.
“The commission is most concerned that the [memorandum] does not indicate that repatriation is not actually the default position of the Cayman Islands government,” according to a summary of issues included on the HRC’s website.
“[It] does not portray that refugees are given the opportunity to apply for and engage in a process to seek asylum.” The commission also recommended that law enforcement officials embark on a public education campaign to inform people about the intent of Section 109 of the Immigration Law, which pertains to human smuggling.
The section makes it an offense “whether for financial or material benefit or not” for a person to assist or facilitate the transportation, harbouring or movement into or out of the Cayman Islands. Sentences of up to seven years in prison can be given upon conviction under the section.