Three people from Cuba are on the run in Grand Cayman after landing at Beach Bay on Sunday. Police rescued another 15 migrants who ran into difficulties at sea on Monday.
Two boats, carrying more than 60 migrants between them, stopped first at the Brac, where 25 got off the boats and were taken into custody, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The vessels then sailed to Grand Cayman. One landed in Beach Bay and could not get back out to sea. Immigration then took 21 people into custody; four men disappeared from the group.
Chief Inspector Claudia Brady of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said one of those four men returned to the boat and is in custody, and police are asking for public assistance to find the remaining three men suspected to be hiding in the Beach Bay area.
The other boat moored off East End before the migrants continued on their journey. On Monday, Home Affairs Deputy Chief Officer Wesley Howell said that boat got into trouble at sea, but “all 15 souls on board were safely rescued today by the RCIPS Joint Marine Unit.”
Mr. Howell said in an email, “We are concerned about the increased number of migrants that are we are encountering. The migrant vessels are typically more densely loaded with persons, and the northwesters this time of year makes the seas very treacherous, all of which makes the sea crossing more dangerous.”
Cuban migrants are permitted to pass through Cayman waters, but if they come ashore they are detained and sent back to Cuba. Immigration data shows that 2015 had the highest number of Cuban arrivals in Cayman in the past 10 years, with 226 arrivals for the year. The previous high had been in 2006 when 148 Cubans arrived in Cayman. Between the two boats, 64 migrants – 33 in one and 31 in another – entered Cayman’s waters over the weekend.
The boat that landed on Grand Cayman on Sunday, an estimated 24-foot wood plank sailboat named El Arca, remained aground on Beach Bay on Monday afternoon. Many of the migrants’ possessions littered the beach and filled the boat.
El Arca, Spanish for The Ark, has a deep keel steadied by outriggers with inflated tire tubes. The mast was fashioned from a thin tree trunk.
This is the second time Cuban migrants have landed in the Brac this year. In early January, 22 men and one woman came ashore and were sent to the immigration detention center to await deportation to Cuba. At the time, Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Gary Wong said, “I was told that the vessel appeared to be unseaworthy.
“It was my understanding that the engine had conked out on them, so they were unable to go any further” he added.
In this weekend’s incident, the migrants appeared to be well prepared. Amid the debris left on the beach where El Arca came ashore, oral rehydration salts and intravenous bags are left with clothes and cast-iron pots.
Migration experts in the United States attribute the uptick in Cuban migration to the improving relations with the U.S. and concerns that the “wet-foot dry-foot” policy could soon come to an end. That policy in the U.S. puts any Cuban citizen who makes it to U.S. soil on a fast track to citizenship.
Many Cubans would sail north for Florida, but the Cuban boats passing by Cayman are on the southern route that takes migrants to Central America, where they can travel by land and cross the border from Mexico into the U.S.