The cost of running the Immigration Detention Centre increased roughly nine-fold over a 6.5-year period, from around $278,000 in 2011 and 2012 to nearly $2.5 million last year.
For the 12-month periods of 2011/12 and 2012/13, about $277,000 per year was spent on operating the detention center and its related activities. That cost jumped to nearly $500,000 in 2013/14 and $1.5 million in 2014/15, and has been more than $2 million per year since, according to a spreadsheet breaking down the center’s costs provided by the Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration in response to an open records request.
The costliest periods were when about $3.1 million was spent in 2015/16, and when nearly $1.9 million was spent during the six-month period from July to December 2016.
Government said it is not able to provide a complete breakdown of how many migrants were detained during the respective budget periods, but Compass archives state that in 2016 there were at times at least 125 detained migrants in the territory. This is more than double the detention center’s capacity, forcing government to use civic centers and other accommodations at the time, as well as private security firms.
The primary driver of the cost increases has been overtime payments to Immigration Detention Centre staff.
No overtime payments were made from June 2011 to July 2014, but such payments have averaged more than $1.5 million per year since then.
Last year, roughly $1.6 million was spent on some 48,875 overtime hours accumulated by roughly 114 officers. The Ministry of Human Resources explained that work included the duties at the center and the time spent assisting in repatriating migrants. Payments were also made to prison, immigration, and police officers who assisted in such duties, the ministry stated.
Other cost increases over the last few years include medical services, which increased from less than $50,000 per year before July 2015 to more than $100,000 per year after that.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration stated that there have been four female detainees who used maternity benefits while being held at the Immigration Detention Centre. Other large medical costs have been associated with an eye injury sustained last year by one of the detainees, forcing him to be taken to Jamaica for surgery.
“Several” other migrants also required surgery while under detention, according to the ministry.
Airfare costs have also spiked in recent years from less than $50,000 per year before July 2015 to more than $100,000 per year after that. But when asked how many flights have been conducted last year, what destinations were flown to and from, and how many people flew, the Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration told the Compass that that information is “unknown.”
The ministry did include with its spreadsheet of costs a list of vendors that have provided services to the Immigration Detention Centre, and Cayman Airways is listed nearly 100 times.
Other vendors include Jacques Scott & Co. Ltd., the Security Centre Ltd., the Health Services Authority, Cost-U-Less, Kirk Home Centre, MacDonalds Chicken Delite, Latin Taste and the Mango Tree restaurants, telecommunications companies Digicel, Flow and Logic, and the Theo R. Bodden Memorial Funeral Home, as well as a vendor or vendors marked “unknown” more than 20 times. Other vendors were redacted from the list (see sidebar for a list of all vendors).
However, the Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration did not list when the purchases were made from the vendors, nor how much the vendors were paid.
In July this year, the Human Rights Commission inspected the Immigration Detention Centre and found flies buzzing around “spoiled food,” as well as other unsanitary conditions.
“Due to the extensive nature of the unsanitary conditions, the government must take steps to rectify this situation before the facility becomes uninhabitable and a further health risk,” Commission Chairman James Austin-Smith wrote in a July 11 letter to Her Majesty’s Prisons Service.
Interim Prisons Director Steven Barrett responded to Mr. Austin-Smith’s letter at the time, noting that he was “disappointed” by the state of the bathroom facilities at the center and that the situation in the kitchen where flies buzzed around spoiled food was “unacceptable.”
“Food storage and handling areas will be deep-cleaned and a program of hygienic inspections commenced,” Mr. Barrett said.
All the Cuban migrants were released from the Immigration Detention Centre earlier this month.
They are now living in the community while their asylum applications are being heard, and the facility is currently undergoing upgrades in preparation to house inmates from Northward Prison.