A Cuban migrant detained in George Town made a plea for asylum Monday that he hoped would reach the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office.
Miguel Garcia, who said he has been held in Grand Cayman for three-and-a-half months, made an attempt to share a handwritten letter from inside the detention center, in which he requested the governor consider his request for political asylum. The letter was confiscated by facility officials who deemed the message to be a possible security concern.
An officer confirmed that 71 Cubans are currently being held in the facility, used to detain migrants who make unauthorized landfall in the Cayman Islands. The islands are a common yet typically unintended stopover for migrants fleeing Cuba, many in search of asylum in the United States.
Mr. Garcia described his message through the holding center’s fence, saying, “We are here and we are asking for political asylum. What we want is to be right with the law here and to know what they can do with us. We want to work, in construction or whatever else.”
Mr. Garcia had spoken previously with the press on Jan. 15, following the abrupt end to the U.S. “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, which granted asylum to Cubans who touched American soil. At that time, officials did not object to dozens of detainees freely speaking to the media through the center’s fence.
On Monday, however, facility security officers and Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers were sent to ask that a Cayman Compass reporter leave the premises and schedule a facility tour.
Interview requests by the Compass sent Jan. 13 and Jan. 16 to the prisons service and government information officers were not answered. On Monday, officers provided new press contacts, including an email that bounced back. Messages have been left with information officers requesting more detail.
One official said that while the detainees are not considered prisoners and have the right to speak with the press, the center would rather interviews occur only on an official basis.
Another officer said speaking with the press would upset detainees and could lead to disruptions, such as detainees climbing on roofs and throwing rocks.
Two detainees, Yanet Orozco and Reinato Torres, were brought out for supervised interviews. The two were permitted to speak through an interpreter and could provide only yes or no responses unless given explicit permission otherwise by officers.
Ms. Orozco attempted to share details from her case file but was ordered to put the information away. She said she has been allowed a phone call with a lawyer but was not permitted by officials to provide greater detail.
Mr. Torres said Monday he has been in detention for three-and-a-half months. He expected to have a meeting with a lawyer later that day. He was not allowed to speak further about his case. Similarly, detainees were not allowed to provide the names of the lawyers they had contacted.
Officers said the communication measures were not intended to restrict press access and said detainees have been allowed to meet with church members and attorneys.
Mr. Garcia said he has been in contact with Samson & McGrath attorney Laura Larner. He said one issue for detainees is the cost of accessing legal representation, which most cannot afford.
Another detainee, Marlo Molina, said he is no longer hoping for asylum and would simply like his case to be reviewed so he can return home to his family in Cuba. He said rough seas caused his boat to hit the reef in Cayman Brac, forcing an unplanned stopover in the Cayman Islands.
Detainee Armando Acosta said he has not had access to a lawyer for seven months. The claim could not be independently verified through the government.