Six migrants on the run
Six Cuban migrants were still on the run Tuesday after breaking out of the Immigration Detention Centre on Sunday night.
They were among a group of 11 detainees who broke through a metal grilled window and escaped through a fence at the detention center in Fairbanks, George Town.
Prison authorities say four of the men were recaptured after an extensive search of the area. Another man turned himself in to West Bay Police Station on Monday. The others were being hunted by police and Immigration authorities Tuesday.
Holding center nearing capacity
The detention center has been overwhelmed with Cuban migrants since the start of the year. At the time of Sunday’s escape, there were 42 detainees at the facility, putting it at the brink of capacity in the occupied portion.
Raquel Solomon, spokesman for the prison service, acknowledged that the detention center is harder to manage due to the growing number of Cuban migrants arriving on Cayman’s shores.
“Certainly it makes it more of a challenge in terms of resources,” she said. “The more detainees that are there, the more they are able to agitate each other.”
She said there are often only several migrants at the facility, but that resources need to be diverted from other areas to help manage the large increase in detainees.
Another makeshift Cuban boat was spotted off Colliers Beach in East End on Saturday. Witnesses said the men appeared to have pulled up on shore and set up a temporary camp on the beach before moving on later in the day.
Gary Wong, deputy chief immigration officer, confirmed that a boat had been sighted off Colliers and had since carried on its journey.
Increase in migrant numbers
Officials last month said that the thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba appears to be behind the increase in migrant arrivals. In the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy shift toward opening up relations between the two countries, many Cubans fear the Cuban Adjustment Act may be suspended or abolished. The Act confers special status for Cubans who make it to U.S. soil, allowing them to qualify for expedited legal permanent resident status, and eventually U.S. citizenship.
Wesley Howell, deputy chief officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said concerns that the Act may be abolished appeared to be fueling an increase in the number of migrants trying to reach the U.S.
More than 160 Cuban migrants were estimated to have shown up in Cayman’s waters in the first three months of 2015, compared with 24-per-month on average in 2014.
The prison service is currently helping police in the search for the missing detainees and asks anyone who knows the whereabouts of the men to call 911.
A statement from the prison service warned people not to approach the men but to call the police if they encounter them.
Of the 11 men who originally escaped on Sunday, one had been at the center since December, six arrived on the Brac in March and four were brought to the island by a cruise ship in March.
“The public is also reminded that assisting a detainee is a crime and anyone who is found to aid or abet the detainees may be prosecuted,” the statement from the prison service noted.