The Department of Immigration is “reviewing alternatives” to keeping the 13 asylum-seeking Cuban migrants detained at the Immigration Detention Centre while their asylum applications are being processed, the department stated on Wednesday.

The announcement was made after a number of Cuban migrants at the detention center started a hunger strike there in protest of what they describe as human rights violations by the Cayman Islands government, including the inordinate amount of time they have been held in detention without any apparent movement on their asylum applications.

Thursday would mark the 12th day of the hunger strike. The migrants have told the Compass that there are nine participants in the hunger strike.

The Department of Immigration disputed that number, however, saying on Wednesday eight Cuban men started refusing meals on July 2 and only four continue to do so.

“The eight detainees were assessed by doctors with Health Services Authority on multiple occasions last week, although the group refused treatment,” the Department of Immigration added. “A doctor also visited the facility this week to assess the four detainees, but only one detainee accepted a consultation with the physician.”

The department stated that given the delays in finalizing the detainees’ immigration status – five men in the center have been detained for more than two years, and six others have been detained for more than one year – the acting chief immigration officer has “agreed to review the continued detention of the migrants.”

However, in reviewing their detention, any potential risks posed to the community by their release will be the paramount consideration, the immigration department stated.

Meanwhile, officials will “continue to monitor” the situation, according to the announcement.

Onsite officers with Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service, who are responsible for facilitating daily routines and security, initiated their protocols for individuals who refused meals last week, which included putting them on hourly watch “while continuing to closely monitor the situation,” the immigration department stated. “Officials stated that doctors will continue to observe their health and safety, and food and water will continue to be offered to the individuals.”

The department added that “due to the sensitive nature of the situation, further details will not be made available until matters are decided by Government on the best way forward.”

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