Cuban migrants took illegal Cayman ‘vacation’

El Arca landed at Beach Bay Jan. 31. - Photo: Charles Duncan

Two Cuban migrants pleaded guilty on Friday to landing without permission of immigration officials, telling the court they had turned themselves in after their money was spent.

Ennier Guillermo Alverez Puig, 27, and Liodanis Sanchez Barrio, 26, said they each had US$500 when the boat they were in ran aground on Jan. 31 in the Beach Bay area of Bodden Town.

Crown counsel Scott Wainwright said the boat had contained approximately 25 Cuban nationals. Barrio, Puig and two others came ashore and immediately fled and hid in a bushy area. They were at large for 16 days. Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez asked, through an interpreter, why the men had run. The men replied, “We never ran. We just walked toward the streets.”

In their interviews with authorities later, the men said they did not know anyone on the island. They decided to split into two groups of two.

The magistrate asked them what was their intention. “To know the island,” they replied.

They said they had decided to leave the boat when it was not working. Each had US$500 which they had brought from Cuba. They bought food “at different cafeterias,” they said.

They walked around the streets and on the beach. They slept in the bush.

When the magistrate asked where they had been, the interpreter listened to their replies and told the court, “They were all over …. We just wandered around until our cash was finished.”

The magistrate commented, “Essentially, they just wanted a vacation.”

A summary of facts indicated that police apprehended the men in the Prospect area. The men told the court they had called to the police at Lantern Point [in the Prospect area].

In passing sentence, the magistrate said what was most distressing was that, after their boat ran aground, the men deliberately did not wait for officials to arrive, but decided to treat themselves to a 16-day vacation. They were on the street, wandering around and out in the public domain. “That is such a security risk because there was no documentation of them being on the island,” she pointed out.

She described as disappointing the men’s nonchalant, “I really don’t care” kind of attitude.

The magistrate said she thought they did not realize the seriousness of what they had done.

She pointed out that the Immigration Law serves a vital purpose and has strict penalties, which the courts will apply.

She sentenced each man to three months imprisonment and advised them of their right to appeal. They were also recommended for deportation on completion of sentence.

In a statement released shortly after the sentencing, Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith thanked the court for the prompt action. “We believe this sentence should be a deterrent to other migrants who land illegally,” he commented. “The department will ensure that illegal immigration is met with strong action.”

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