Government remains quiet as migrant hunger strike enters 10th day

Nine Cuban men detained at George Town’s Immigration Detention Centre entered their 10th day of hunger strike Tuesday – abstaining from food, water and bathing – without a visit thus far from government or a doctor, according to the migrant asylum seekers.

Two officials from the Human Rights Commission reportedly visited the facility Tuesday afternoon, telling the men they would be in contact with a doctor and saying staff would return with paperwork for them to fill out.

The HRC has not provided comment on the strike.

One of the men on strike – who has been held for one year and two months in the Prison Service facility, pending review of his asylum application – said the group had placed its lives in the hands of Cayman’s government.

They feared, however, that a response from officials may not come in time for them. Three of the hunger-strikers appeared Sunday in videos, which have now received hundreds of shares and thousands of views on Facebook.

In the early days of the strike, the men said they were not able to contact the Human Rights Commission because the center’s landlines were out of service. Those lines were restored by Monday, however, but the men said they found it difficult to communicate their needs, because the commission lacks Spanish-speaking staff.

An earlier comment from the commission, following a June 18 video broadcast from the center, said HRC staff was only able to grasp the “general nature of the complaints,” as they were in Spanish.

Another migrant said a doctor attended the facility Monday but only refilled prescriptions and did not see the men on hunger strike.

The Department of Immigration, the Prison Service, the Human Rights Commission and the Governor’s Office have been contacted for comment about the strike, but none had been provided by press time Tuesday.

Among the men’s concerns are the extensive and indefinite detention periods that asylum applicants face in Cayman, lack of legal counsel, inadequate translation services and a feared lack of due process.

Meanwhile, the situation has begun to garner regional attention, with media in Florida, Cuba and South America analyzing Cayman’s human rights standards.

The hunger strike has appeared on Diario Las Americas, Radio Marti and CiberCuba, among others, meaning that the men’s identities are now known in Cuba, where they have vocally opposed the communist government.

Five men in the center have been detained for more than two years. Six others have been detained for more than one year. While asylum applications are pending, applicants are not permitted to leave the detention center, managed by Her Majesty’s Prison Service.