Cayman Islands Immigration Department officials have a total of 116 Cuban migrants in custody at various locations, with a little less than half now being kept at various community centers on Grand Cayman.
The overflow housing was required due to the arrival of 69 migrants in the islands since April 21, immigration officials said Wednesday, outpacing the rate at which they could be repatriated to Cuba.
“[The] Immigration Detention Centre is currently filled to capacity,” a statement from the department Wednesday indicated. “The remaining migrants are distributed throughout various community centers on island.”
The department did not specify which centers were housing the remaining migrants. Earlier this year, dozens of Cubans were temporarily housed at community centers in the Bodden Town, East End and North Side districts on Grand Cayman.
The maximum capacity of the detention center in Fairbanks, George Town, is about 60. A small number of Cuban migrants are being kept in hotel accommodations because of medical conditions, or in jail due to their escape attempts after being taken into custody.
Immigration officials reported in late March that community centers being used to house migrants had been cleared out as repatriations progressed. The Cayman Islands has a long-standing agreement with Cuba that governs how migrants are to be returned – a process that often takes months.
On April 21, about three weeks after that announcement, 21 Cubans landed in Cayman Brac. They were taken into custody after landing, stating their vessel was having engine problems, and were later transferred to Grand Cayman.
On May 1, a group of 48 Cubans aboard a relatively small vessel landed in Cayman Brac. They eventually off-loaded five of their number who were taken into custody by immigration officers.
On May 5, the same boat carrying the remaining 43 Cubans came ashore in South Sound, Grand Cayman. The group was unable to continue their journey due to what they said were “technical difficulties.”
A total of 69 Cubans landed in the Cayman Islands between April 21 and May 5, in addition to those who remained here from earlier failed voyages. Immigration officials repatriated three last week.
Typically, the Cuban boaters are classified as economic migrants, fleeing poor wages in their home country and seeking entry to the U.S. via Central America and Mexico.
For the past two years, increased numbers of migrants have put significant strain on the local government’s budget. Ministry of Home Affairs Deputy Chief Officer Wesley Howell has said government spent more than US$1 million in each of the last two calendar years on the care, housing, feeding and repatriation of the migrants.