Seven Cuban men and one woman held at the Immigration Detention Centre are launching a hunger strike in protest of how government is handling their asylum applications, according to a Cuban migrant familiar with the situation.
Another Cuban asylum applicant, on supervised release from the facility, said the protesters believe they have not had their legal rights properly explained to them, they have not received a fair asylum hearing, and they do not have access to channels of communication.
Their main fear is being expatriated back to Cuba, one migrant participating in the protest told the Cayman Compass.
They are asking that the director of the Prison Service, the director of the Department of Immigration, Governor Martyn Roper and the Human Rights Commission tend to the situation.
Eight Cubans in the group have recently had their asylum applications rejected, according to the detainees. Several said that they did not trust their applications had been properly considered and that they did not fully understand their rights in the Cayman Islands.
The detained Cubans started protesting last Thursday, standing in the yard of the Immigration Detention Centre and holding signs with slogans such as “We are not immigrants, we are refugees” and “We want a fair process.”
According to the Cuban who spoke with the Compass on Thursday, the migrants were warned by prison guards that a hunger strike could complicate their cases, creating fear of deportation among the group.
However, the hunger strike was announced on Tuesday after detention center officers allegedly searched the detainees’ premises and confiscated their cellphones, according to the Cuban, who said the officers want to silence the detainees.
“Today more than 15 prison officials did an exhaustive search to take away our cellphones and they cut the land lines. They want to shut us up,” the Cuban said.
When a Compass reporter attempted to call the detention center land line Tuesday, the call went unanswered.
The public protest at the Immigration Detention Centre is the second one held there in the last six months. In July, nine Cubans launched a hunger strike in response to their prolonged detention at the immigration center. At the time, five men in the center had been detained for more than two years. Six others had been detained for more than one year. Later in 2018, the Cubans were released from the detention center under government supervision while their asylum applications were considered. However, some of them were returned to the center because of issues with finding housing for them.
One Cuban from the group on supervised release was granted asylum last week. The Compass understands this was the first asylum case granted this year.
Government has not provided updated numbers on asylum cases granted or the number of Cubans currently in detention, and did not issue a statement in response to the protest before this article’s press deadline.