Chasing Cubans costs Cayman


Thirty-two Cuban migrants were sent home from Grand Cayman over the past two weeks after having landed in the Cayman Islands illegally.  

However, nearly as many remain in George Town’s Immigration Detention Centre awaiting the outcome of Cuban and local officials’ processing of their repatriation cases. Dozens of the detainees have gone on the run in recent weeks, although all but one has been recaptured.  

“It’s just a constant flow of migrants leaving that country,” Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Gary Wong said Wednesday. “There’s no particular reason for so many coming at one time, they’re all just looking for a better way of life.”  

The Cubans’ quest for better fortunes has cost the Cayman Islands government hundreds of thousands of dollars in past budget years for housing and care while they await – sometimes for months – the outcome of asylum requests or simply to be sent back home.  

The wait for repatriation led to the latest round of escapes from the low-security detention center in the Fairbanks area of George Town, according to Mr. Wong.  

“The last few escapes that we’ve been having is because the migrants have said Cuba is taking too long to accept them back,” he said. “So they think they will put pressure [on Cuba] and us [by escaping]. But you and I both know that’s not going to happen.”  

More likely, the Cuban government won’t even hear about the escape attempts, Mr. Wong said, and in the meantime, the Cayman Islands community could be put at risk.  

Escapes from the migrant center are often viewed in a laissez faire manner by the Cayman community as the Cubans are usually economic migrants and not perceived as a threat.  

“[Residents] should think about it more seriously than that,” Mr. Wong said. “We don’t know who they are. We don’t know their background. We don’t know what kind of threats they would pose to the people out there. 

“Most of the males who come here have some sort of military training background … that could be dangerous to the average person.”  

A number of escapes from the detention center have been reported since the beginning of 2014. They include:  

Jan. 20: A lone migrant fled the center around midday and came back of his own accord that evening.  

March 11: Three migrants who had been rescued in the water by a cruise ship that later docked in Grand Cayman fled the detention center and were arrested later that day.  

March 17: More than two dozen Cubans ran from the center in the middle of the afternoon. All but one were picked up immediately by police and immigration enforcement officials.  

March 19: Three migrants escaped from the detention center around 5 p.m. They were not immediately located, but all were eventually rounded up.  

April 16: Thirteen migrants ran from detention in the afternoon; 10 were recaptured immediately.  

Of all the recent escapes, only one migrant has managed to elude immigration officers and the local police. Mr. Wong said it is suspected that the escapee, Yasmany Gonzalez Rodriguez, is being harbored locally, which is a crime.  

The Cayman Islands government communicates with the Cuban government via the British Embassy there, but immigration officials often find it difficult and time-consuming to obtain reliable information about the migrants, who often give false names and do not carry identification.  

Also, the men and women who arrive illegally from Cuba could be desperate to avoid returning home.  

“Most of the vessels [used by the migrants] are basically homemade,” Mr. Wong said. “They’re actually built in bushes close to the beach and then pushed into the water.  

“Once you leave [Cuba] illegally by that kind of means, Cuba does look at them as basically traitors to their cause.”  

The migrants are allowed under United Nations conventions to make application for political asylum in the Cayman Islands. However, most do not qualify for that status. 


This picture of Cuban migrants near Cayman Brac in 2013 is an example of the makeshift watercraft used in attempts to reach the U.S. via a circuitous route through the Caribbean and Central America. – Photo: Ed Beaty

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  1. My understanding is that the UK government has mandated that we not assist these people to continue on with their journey, but instead have required that we hold them in detention until they can be sent back to Cuba. If that is in fact the case should the UK not cover the costs associated with their detention and repatriation?

    Maybe we just need to ask for the funds associated with the implementation of this UK mandated process.

  2. Here in Texas, we have an ant trail of illegal’s streaming across the Mexican border. The bleeding heart liberals tell us that, they are hard working people, just trying to make a better life for themselves. Well they did make a better life for themselves, at the expense of our quality of life. Wait till the breeders start washing up. It will look like sea turtles coming ashore to lay eggs. Except unlike sea turtle they will not hatch and go back to sea. They move inwards where they get on government assistance, free health care, free education, etc.. The Cayman Government better start building new schools, hospitals, and barrows to deal with them.

  3. Send me your tired, your weary those seeking a better life. I expect that American logo has changed, or only relates to europeans. And lets be political correct and extend that to those poor Cubans who suffer under that terrible dictator, supplemental moto; get to home base with you foot out of the water and you home free. just run the gauntlet and if you slide home dry foot, American all the way.. Those thousand who see the lights of miami and is swept out in the Atlantic, they don’t count, too many to count.

    Cayman, we were taught to go down to the sea, and any mariner in distress is allowed safehaven for repairs and provisions, no one should be forced to give up their craft or be sent back home.. We cant keep you, but do your repairs get some grub, and may you have fair winds and following seas as you continue on your adventure..

  4. @ John-F Levy, Lol… You are so typical of the same bleeding heart liberals here in America. As long as someone else is taking care of them, then by all means let’s help them continue on with their journey. lol. Hey, maybe Grand Cayman was their journeys end. Come on now, your government can’t just send them back to that oppressive dictatorship in Cuba. Ok, I will switch off the sarcasm. But seriously for the bleeding hearts out there, please educate yourselves on this issue.

  5. @John Barrett. Come on now John, you must consider that the US sanctions and dry foot policy is suffering us the cost of these people trying to reach your milk and honey. When I consider cause and effect, Cuba’s Civil war and failure at reparations should be taken in context with the rest. Failure of the Cuban
    government to offer reparations to businessmen whose businesses was absorbed by the Cuban state is the reason given for the continued sanctions, is it not?
    Japan and Germany; why the difference in US policies toward them. Are you willing to accept that redistribution of wealth, as was the case with Cuba, is in comparison to the million of American lives lost to Germany and Japan. We built back those economies, why not ease up on Cuba? Maybe the deal with Russia to never invade Cuba was counterproductive for the Cubans, maybe if we had invaded, we could have shown an example of Americans rebuilding and economic provers.
    As soon as the Cubans who live abroad realize that although the situation in Cuba may not be to their liking, it is still their country and people that are there trying, the better. Red and yellow black and white, they are all precious in his sight we all love the children of the world. I am a tree hugger too.

  6. @John Barrett: Thanks for the link. A very powerful presentation, makes a lot of sense. This concept of helping the poor help themselves shows promise in India where a proactive young lady started a auntropernoal mini loan program that is said to be working very well and spreading. We all have to protect our borders, and I know there is no country on this earth more humanitarian than the US. Mexico is your neighbour, Cuba is our close neighbour, too bad we have to erect new fences, when we envisioned the global economy removing those of old.