Security alert at detention center

Four Cubans arrested in disturbance

A group of Cuban migrants threatened to burn down the Immigration detention center amid a disturbance at the facility on Thursday. 

One of the group jumped the fence and escaped before being captured by prison officers. A second man climbed onto the roof “armed with large rocks” as the flare-up escalated. 

Four of the men were arrested as police, firefighters, immigration officers and prison officers wearing helmets and protective vests descended on the scene. The four are being investigated for escaping lawful custody and threats against law enforcement individuals. 

The fracas follows at least five escapes from the center since March, including one last month during which officers were pelted with rocks by inmates who then jumped the fence. 

The incidents are understood to stem from frustration among the detainees over the length of time it is taking to process their repatriation back to Cuba. The group currently held at the low-security facility are said to have been there since early March. Premier Alden McLaughlin praised security services for diffusing a “volatile” situation on Thursday morning without anyone being hurt. 

He plans to meet with management at the detention center to see what can be done to improve security. 

“It is my understanding that tensions have been rising for some time now,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “This is largely due to the wait times for the Cubans to be repatriated back to Cuba and the uncertainty of when this will occur.” 

Cuban migrants, who frequently arrive in Cayman on makeshift boats heading for the U.S., are held at the detention center until the relevant paperwork is processed to transport them back to Cuba, under the terms of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries. The process is supposed to take three weeks, according to the MOU. Currently, repatriations are taking two to three months. 

Mr. McLaughlin said the arrival of any more migrant Cubans could make matters even worse. 

“Long term, the work really has to be with Cuba to work toward repatriation time lines that are in keeping with the three weeks in the MOU. We want to work with Cuba to fix this situation going forward,” he said in a media statement on Thursday. 

Officials from the Cayman Islands and Cuba are slated to meet next month for a review of the MOU. 

A police spokesman said officers had been called to reports of a disturbance at the center at 10:30 a.m. 

He said, “When the police arrived, they received further information that some of the refugees made threats to do harm to an immigration officer and threatened to burn down the detention facility.  

“As a precautionary measure, the fire department was notified of the threat and fire officers dispatched. Other law enforcement officers from the prison, Immigration and Customs attended and assisted.” 

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A police officer patrols the perimeter of the Immigration detention center following Thursday’s disturbance. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER
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