The Cayman Islands government spent nearly $1 million on overtime during the last budget year for guards to monitor Cuban migrants temporarily housed in George Town.
The overtime spending, listed as part of the prisons service budget in the Ministry of Home Affairs 2014/15 annual report, was also noted as putting “even greater strains” on a prison staff already stretched thin.
“The government had to fund in excess of $960,000 in overtime to cover this facility,” states the prisons service report for the 2014/15 budget year.
Prior to 2014, the Immigration Department kept minimal security staff at the detention facility, which is not considered a real prison. The center is used to detain migrants who land illegally on Cayman’s shores until their repatriation can be arranged. The process often takes months.
During 2013 and early 2014, a number of escapes from the low-security center were reported. Most of the escapees were rounded up, but at least one man who escaped in late 2013 was not located, according to the Immigration Department. Deputy Chief immigration Officer Gary Wong warned at the time that some escaped Cubans could pose a danger to the community since often little is known about them prior to their arrival.
The escapes prompted the Ministry of Home Affairs to shift either prisons officers or private security company guards to monitor the facility around the clock. Premier Alden McLaughlin announced in June that the detention center would be turned into “a prison” with prison officers guarding the Cuban migrants in the same way they guard inmates at Northward or Fairbanks prisons.
Few Cuban prisoner escapes were reported after mid-2014, but it came with a cost far beyond any seen by government in the past decade.
According to figures previously provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Cayman spent $1,576,000 in calendar year 2014 on migrant-related costs, including detention, feeding, housing, medical care, and transportation back to Cuba.
In 2010 and 2009, there was no cost to government since no Cuban immigrants had arrived in Cayman.
The costs listed are for the calendar year, January through December. They vary somewhat from those in the Cayman Islands annual budget, which runs from July 1 to June 30.
More than double the number of migrants landed in the Cayman Islands in 2014 compared to the previous year. According to the ministry, 143 Cuban migrants arrived in Cayman during 2014. Sixty-seven migrants arrived here in 2013, and 69 were reported in 2012.
More Cuban migrants arrived in Cayman last year than in any year since 2006, when the government recorded 148 migrants landing here.
In the past decade, government officials said 745 Cuban migrants, including 21 children, landed illegally in Cayman.