Migrant detention nearly cleared out

A lone female remains in the Cayman Islands Immigration Detention Centre following the repatriation last week of two dozen Cubans by local immigration officials.

The 17 men and seven women were flown from Owen Roberts International Airport on Wednesday, according to the Immigration Department.

The throngs of migrants passing through, and in some cases landing on, the Cayman Islands over the past 18 months have put a significant strain on the government’s budget.

The government spent more than US$1 million during the 2013/14 financial year on detaining, housing and repatriating Cuban migrants, Premier Alden McLaughlin revealed in September.

In addition, costs of processing asylum-seekers, as opposed to economic migrants who land illegally, also increased during the last budget year, Mr. McLaughlin said.

Hundreds of migrants landed on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac in makeshift boats over the past 18 months. Consequently, there was a need for more repatriations, as well as additional expenses for housing and medical care while the individuals were waiting to be sent home.

The Immigration Department has added security officers to help prevent a recurrence of escapes from the George Town detention center, where illegal migrants are kept, driving up costs further. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson led a local delegation that met in September with Cuban government representatives in attempts to renegotiate the agreement between Cayman, the U.K. and Cuba on terms of repatriation for illegal migrants.

Deputy chief officer of the Ministry of Home Affairs Wesley Howell, who was with the Havana delegation in September, said it is not yet known when a new agreement governing repatriation of migrants will be set with Cuba.

Mr. Howell said Cayman is seeking faster repatriation of economic migrants, reducing the number of days they must be detained. Quicker turnaround times on repatriation would mean lower costs for the Cayman Islands government, he said.